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Friday, December 02, 2005

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Lexx

Nguyen's brother also a convicted trafficker

Aussie court suppressed fact that he was a drug runner and given jail term for savage attack on teen

SYDNEY - THE brother of an Australian drug courier hanged in Singapore is a convicted drug trafficker and had been sentenced to jail for a savage samurai sword attack, but details of the case were suppressed due to fear that they could jeopardise clemency appeals.


KHOA'S CRIMINAL BACKGROUND was not publicised in Australia, in order to avoid jeopardising his twin brother's plea for clemency in Singapore. -- EPA

The Australian reported yesterday that Nguyen Tuong Van's brother, Nguyen Khoa Dang, in 1998 repeatedly slashed a teenager with a samurai sword, seriously wounding the 17-year-old's arm, buttock, ankle and left knee.

He was sentenced to three years in jail for the attack, which resulted in the victim requiring plastic surgery.

But County Court judge Meryl Sexton suspended the jail term because Khoa's 'personal situation...(had) become so traumatic because of (his) brother's situation', the newspaper reported.

The judge ordered that the sentence be suspended partly because his twin brother was awaiting execution in Singapore.

She also banned publication of case details while Australian officials repeatedly appealed to Singapore not to hang Nguyen, said The Australian.

Details of Khoa's conviction could be published yesterday for the first time after Judge Sexton lifted a publication restriction imposed to avoid jeopardising Ngu- yen's plea for clemency.

Khoa faced court in June last year, where he pleaded guilty to riotous assembly and recklessly causing serious injury.

In December 1998, Khoa was involved in a brawl between Asian and Islander youths in a park in the northern Melbourne suburb of Reservoir.

The prosecution alleged that Khoa armed himself with a samurai sword and struck Glen Kohu repeatedly, causing him serious injury.

The Australian reported Judge Sexton as saying that Kohu was confined to a wheelchair after the attack, forced to leave school and had since struggled to stay employed.

The trial took more than four years to reach the county court, partly because of concerns about the effect it would have on the Singapore trial of Nguyen, who was arrested in December 2002, according to The Australian.

In April 2003, Judge Sexton agreed to adjourn the case because of Nguyen's trial in Singapore.

'Amongst the reasons for my doing so which I can refer to was the effect on you of having your twin brother awaiting trial in Singapore for a capital offence,' The Australian quoted her as saying.

Khoa is a convicted drug trafficker.

He had also previously served time for drug-trafficking offences and was released from prison in July 2002.

Nguyen claimed in his trial that he had been trying to smuggle heroin to pay for his brother's mounting legal bills, partly incurred by the court case that followed Khoa's involvement in the brawl.

The court heard that Khoa, now 25, left home against his mother's wishes, abused drugs and alcohol and was a frequent customer of Melbourne's Crown casino.

Nguyen's arrest had resulted in 'an increase in (the) level of (Khoa's) maturity' but he had relapsed into heroin use in 2003, possibly as a result of his brother's arrest in Singapore, The Australian quoted Judge Sexton as saying.

Khoa was in Singapore last week for the execution of his brother.

Nguyen's family left last night for Australia with his body.

Mr Lex Lasry, who has been the family spokesman, addressed the media although the family members kept mum at Changi Airport yesterday evening.

Asked about Khoa's criminal record, Mr Lasry said he did not know about it and dismissed it as irrelevant.

'I don't have a view about it,' he said.

'I've got some views about Khoa and where he's going from here and I don't want to say anything about that.'

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