A Vietnamese national has been jailed in his home country for killing a compatriot in south Wales 14 years ago, following an unprecedented cross-border investigation and trial.
Tu Minh Le, 47, fled to south-east Asia following the death of 44-year-old Tran Nguyen in November 2006. An investigation between the National Crime Agency, Gwent police and Vietnamese authorities eventually tracked down the suspect in Vietnam.
Gwent police said it was the first time Vietnam had consented to prosecuting a Vietnamese national for an offence committed in the UK. Under Vietnamese law it was not possible to extradite Le.
A spokesperson said: “The Vietnamese authorities agreed that in the circumstances, given another Vietnamese national was unlawfully killed, justice should be seen to be done for the victim’s family.”
Le was put on trial at the people’s court in Hưng Yên province, found guilty of unlawful killing and sentenced to 12 years in jail.
Nguyen arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry hoping to earn money to support his family in Vietnam, and was set to work in a cannabis factory. The factory was raided by a rival gang who tied him and stole the crop.
The gangmaster in charge of Nguyen suspected he may have been involved in the theft and he was beaten up. He was dumped unconscious at the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport where he died.
Three other people were convicted of manslaughter following a four-month trial at Cardiff crown court in 2008, but efforts to locate Le continued.
DCI Justin O’Keefe, of Gwent police said: “This was the first time a trial was held in Vietnam for a foreign offence. It’s taken years of work, liaising with a range of authorities, but we never lost hope that we would see the outcome we now have.”
Mark Bishop, the National Crime Agency’s head of region for Asia Pacific, said: “This was a truly landmark case which came about because of unprecedented cooperation between the NCA, Gwent police and the Vietnamese ministry of public security.
“We worked closely with them to exchange evidence, resulting in this conviction. Tran Nguyen’s family have been through a horrendous ordeal and have had to wait 14 years for this verdict. I hope it brings some form of comfort or closure to them.