Vietnam court orders fresh probe into Nigerian fraud case

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Cletus Chimaobi Hillary (L) and Okonkwo Mathias Ugochukwu being escorted to the HCMC People’s Court on June 26, 2014. File photo Cletus Chimaobi Hillary (L) and Okonkwo Mathias Ugochukwu being escorted to the HCMC People’s Court on June 26, 2014. File photo

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The Supreme People’s Court tossed out a verdict that a Ho Chi Minh City court handed down to two Nigerian men convicted of computer fraud.
On Tuesday, the country's highest court ordered fresh investigations into the case and declared that the HCMC People’s Court had seriously violated legal procedures, Phap Luat (Law) newspaper reported. 
In June, the HCMC People’s Court sentenced Cletus Chimaobi Hillary (Chima), 36, and Okonkwo Mathias Ugochukwu (Ugo), 32, to 14 and 12 years, respectively, for misappropriating funds.
According to the indictment, in September 2012, the Hoa Sen Group in Binh Duong Province signed a US$150,000 contract with KHP Roofing in Malaysia. 
The company agreed to pay Hoa Sen a $30,000 advance. 
A man known only as Cris (who remains at large) and the two aforementioned convicts were arrested for hacking into Hoa Sen's email account and stealing information about the contract. 
The two convicts said Cris asked them to find a Vietnamese national with a bank account, so the pair recruited Duong Anh Nhung. 
Then the fugitive mastermind created an email account similar to Hoa Sen's. 
Posing as a representative of the firm, he asked the Malaysian company to transfer roughly $115,000 into Nhung's account. 
Hoa Sen discovered the fraudulent email and notified the police in early November 2012.
On November 26, 2012, police arrested Ugo and Nhung while they were withdrawing money at Dong A Bank in District 8. 
Chima was arrested soon afterwards. 
Using the same ploy, the group misappropriated $31,535 that M/S Rashel Tyre House, a Bangladeshi company, intended to transfer to the Sao Vang Rubber JSC.
The money was transferred into the bank account of Pham Linh Duyen, Chima’s Vietnamese girlfriend.
The HCMC People’s Court did not take any legal action against Nhung and Duyen because, they claimed, the pair was unaware of the fraudulent nature of the transactions.
After his first trial, Ugo appealed the verdict. 
During the proceedings, he argued that he hadn't conspired with Chima to commit fraud and therefore could not have acted as his accomplice.
Chima confirmed that his statement was true. 
According to the Supreme People’s Court, the HCMC People’s Court violated legal procedures for failing to allow the victim companies to join the case as plaintiffs.
It further reprimanded the municipal court for confiscating the misappropriated funds instead of returning them to the defrauded companies.
The appeals court also found the municipal court had erred in failing to sufficiently investigate the possibility that Chima’s girlfriend had played a more active role in the scheme, the supreme court said.

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