Police investigate $255m meteorite scam in Dalat

By Lam Vien, Thanh Nien News

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Tran Thi Kim Hue (R), 55, being questioned about charges that she had cheated a group of meteorite traders out of VND30 million  US$255-million chunk of "precious metal" in the Central Highlands resort town of Dalat. Photo: Lam Vien.
Police in the Central Highland resort town of Dalat summoned two women for questioning on Thursday, after a group of meteorite traders accused them of fraud in the sale of a US$255-million chunk of “precious metal."
Police say that Phan Huu Thanh, 49, of the southern province of Tay Ninh, and his colleagues travelled to Dalat to meet Tran Thi Kim Hue, 55 this week.
A man named Vi Liem Dinh told Thanh that Hue possessed a chunk of what they called a "precious metal"  that was capable of creating tiny cracks when placed on the surface of a mirror.
Hue had convinced the men by showing them a piece of mirror bearing cracks shaped like pomegranate seeds, which she claimed were created by the metal.
On June 5, Thanh signed a contract to buy the 1.7-kilogram piece of metal for $255 million from Hue.
Under the terms of the agreement, Thanh put down a VND30 million (US$1,395) deposit and Hue agreed to produce the object for testing on June 10.
Her failure to do so, according to the contract, would require her to pay them VND60 million in compensation.
On the appointed day, Hue didn't produce the “precious metal,” as promised, and instead took the men around the city.
She then asked Thanh to meet her at a hotel later that day. But, she asked Tran Thi Doi, 43, to meet him and try to convince him that the object existed.
In response, the man contacted police who summoned Hue and Doi for questioning.
Police say they've asked Hue to return the deposit, while Thanh and company insist that the woman is hiding the precious object.
Hue had previously accepted a VND27 million ($1,256) deposit for another piece of "precious metal" from Dinh, but the man never received the stone, according to police.
An investigation remains underway.

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