A man claiming to be drug abuser has been extorting money from passengers at downtown bus stops in Ho Chi Minh City.
The man, in his 40s, has been traveling by bicycle to bus stops in the southern hub on the hunt for vulnerable preys he can ‘ask’ for cash, threatening those who fail to fork over money with a knife or syringe.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters collected video footage of the illegal act, even sending one journalist undercover as a victim.
The correspondent arrived at a bus stop on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in District 1 on Monday night before being approached by a small-framed man with dark skin.
“What time is it? Where is Bus No.6?” the man asked his prey before continuing with a threatening tone, “This is my territory. Watch your manners or I’ll stab you. Understand?”
The suspect claimed to be HIV positive, adding that he had just finished an 11-year murder sentence.
“You’ll be infected if I stab you with this” he kept repeating, pointing to a hard object in his pocket.
The stranger then asked the undercover journalist for VND20,000 (US$0.88) to purchase drugs.
“One injection costs me VND600,000 ($26.3). I just need another VND20,000,” he said.
After being turned down, the man overwhelmed his victim with more threats, insisting on the spare cash.
“If you were anyone else, I would stab you and beat you right here on the street and take it. Now give me the money. It is only VND20,000!”
After receiving VND10,000 ($0.44), the thug began complaining of the millions of dong (VND1 million = $43.9) he spends on drugs each day before leaving on his bike.
The thug continued hunting for prey at another bus stop on Dien Bien Phu Street in District 3. He came across K., a college student from the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.
K. was forced to hand over VND50,000 ($2.2) before bowing his head as he begged the man to leave him alone.
“He said he had been watching me for a while. He even pulled out a syringe to intimidate me. I had to give him what he wanted,” K. recalled during an interview after the incident.
After scouting several streets in the city’s center, the man grabbed a bite at a noodle stall in Binh Thanh District and headed toward a nearby tenanted house.
H., an office worker in District 3, also reported that he had fallen victim to the extortion in late August, losing about VND2 million ($87.91) to the bandit.
“After stating his request, he showed his syringe while reiterating he had HIV,” H. said, adding that the thug originally asked for VND20,000 but later took everything from his wallet.
H. has reported the case to authorities.
Tuoi Tre also submitted the evidence to police officers in Nguyen Cu Trinh Ward, District 1, on Tuesday evening.
An official from the police station affirmed on Thursday that they were hunting for the suspect and will impose a stern punishment.