Port Coquitlam software developer was forcibly confined, Justice rules

A Port Coquitlam software developer was forcibly confined – but not kidnapped – according to the recently released judgment of a sometimes baffling B.C. Supreme Court case that involved allegations of a ransom, firearms and a 44-second encounter in a parking garage that was never quite explained.

Arnold Hue was living in Port Coquitlam with his girlfriend and his family on the night he headed to the underground parking lot at Metrotown. He was hearing a dark hoodie and dark pants. He would be wearing those same clothes when police found him two days later.

June 30 to July 2

In relating the events that led up to the encounter in the underground parking garage, Hue’s testimony was: “evasive, inconsistent, and disingenuous,” according to Justice Janet Winteringham.

The court heard testimony that Hue did favours for a man named David Cheung who Hue understood to be: “involved in the sale of drugs.”

Hue testified that Cheung asked for a favour. Despite not knowing what the favour was, he made plans over the phone with an “unknown person with an unknown number” to eventually pick up $3,000 in cash around 41st Avenue and Knight Street in Vancouver.

According to Hue’s testimony, he parked his car and two men he’d never seen before wordlessly threw $3,000 in a bag through his car window. That portion of Hue’s testimony is “unbelievable,” according to Winteringham.

With that transaction complete, Hue testified that the unknown caller told him to head to Metrotown at 7 p.m. where the people receiving the money would contact him.

After parking, Hue testified that he decided to run a few errands in preparation for an upcoming wedding he was planning to attend. He also bought a Nike backpack and put his wallet, phone and AirPods inside.

Alias question

Police later found a shipping invoice in Hue’s car which indicated a package was sent to David Cheung from Jason Liang on July 2.

Asked if he’d ever used Jason Liang as an alias, Hue responded that he didn’t recall.

“Sir, I am not too sure if I pretended to be someone, but I’m saying that I can’t remember,” Hue testified during the trial.

Hue’s testimony was an example of an attempt to “hedge his evidence” rather than tell the truth, according to Winteringham.

“Often, a witness simply does not remember a particular detail or event. However, in this case, I have found Mr. Hue’s forgetfulness to reflect a dishonesty about what he was up to on July 2, 2019,” Winteringham wrote.

The underground parking lot at Metrotown

Video cameras recorded Hue driving his Honda Civic around the parkade, something he did because he: “felt kind of weird sitting in [his] own car in the underground.”

Hue’s selection of parking stalls is suspicious, according to Winteringham.

“It is remarkable that Mr. Hue selected a location that did not have any cameras,” the justice wrote. “It is also remarkable that he could not remember how the accused had found him.”

Asked about meeting up with the accused, Hue testified that he couldn’t specifically recall how they knew where to find him.

“I may have mentioned it to the person that had relayed whoever had given me the money and essentially told them, ‘Hey, like, I’m at Metrotown. This is my location.” And, you know, can they please come to see me so I can go home,’” he testified.

Hue parked behind a pillar at 7:25 p.m. About 15 minutes later, a Dodge Charger carrying Abdulkadir Handule, Abdullah Abdullahi, and Obinna Njoku manoeuvred behind the same pillar and stayed there for 44 seconds. The Charger was seen exiting the parkade immediately afterward.

“In my view, these circumstances raise a high level of suspicion about Mr. Hue’s complicity in what was to occur next,” Winteringham found.

The justice described being “baffled” by Hue’s testimony.

According to Hue, one of the three men got into his car and persuaded him to get into the Charger. He said Hue was to give him $500 and that Hue had to give the two men waiting $2,500.

“Which, to me was—made no sense at all. But I wanted to go home so I just—I just agreed and just, like, went along,” Hue testified.

At the trial, Hue testified that all three men pointed firearms at him when he was in the Dodge.

“He described each of the three guns in remarkable detail, stating that he had learned about the types of guns by playing video games and that was how he was able to identify each gun,” Winteringham wrote.

That contradicted previous evidence in which Hue said two of the men had guns pointed at him.

Hue was cross-examined about why he took his newly-purchased backpack to the Charger. Hue testified that didn’t want to seem rude by flashing money in front of the men. However, Justice Winteringham concluded that he was: “was packing up his belongings (the money, his watch, his keys, and his wallet) because he knew he was going somewhere.”

After getting in the other car, the Charger circled back to the Civic to make sure Hue’s car was locked.

July 2 to July 4

The court found that Hue was taken to a nearby condo on 4960 Sanders Street in Burnaby where he stayed for two days.

The court also heard testimony from May-Lin Rettig, who at the time was engaged to be married to Hue.

She testified that Hue was employed, went to church, and liked to stay home and play video games. She also testified that she knew Hue was assisting Mr. Chung with drug trafficking activity, and that sometimes he shipped marijuana for Cheung and met people on his behalf to give or get money from them.

Rettig testified that she and Hue once went to Cheung’s residence in Port Coquitlam. There was a stack of cash on the table and Cheung told Hue to: “take as much as what he owed him from that stack.” Hue took the money and they left shortly after, according to Rettig.

Hue and Rettig were booked to fly to Dallas, Texas on July 4. Rettig was set to be a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding.

In the condo

The court saw a series of videos showing Hue being threatened. One video showed Hue in his underwear in a bathtub with a gun pointed at him. Other videos showed him at knifepoint and gunpoint.

“They wanted to fake my finger being cut off and created a—a fake concoction of blood to attempt to give off the sense that my finger had been cut off,” Hue testified.

Asked how he knew it was a fake concoction, Hue told the court the accused were in the kitchen mixing what he thought was “ketchup and Sriracha and some kind of a berry.”

At some point after Hue arrived at the condo, “it turned into a confinement,” Justice Winteringham wrote. That point was not disputed by Handule and Abdullahi.

The night of the arrest

At about 10:20 p.m. on July 4, the police set off an explosive at the door.

Abdullah Abdullahi opened the door, saw the police and headed back into the suite, locking the door behind him. All three of the accused headed to the balcony.

After falling from the balcony, Abdullahi was found in a rhododendron bush and subsequently taken to hospital. He continues to suffer from injuries sustained in the fall.

Abdulkadir Handule was found lying on the balcony of another suite with a loaded Glock by his feet. The semi-automatic pistol – which is a prohibited firearm – was loaded.

Police also seized $1,450 in cash from Handule.

Obinna Njoku jumped onto a balcony and broke the sliding glass door to get into another suite.

He picked up a young girl and carried her down the stairs – “much to the disapproval of her mother” – and joined with other condo residents who were being evacuated. He was arrested in the lobby.

A subsequent search of the condo revealed a semi-automatic pistol in the kitchen. It was not loaded.

Conclusion

Justice Winteringham ultimately found the three accused men not guilty of kidnapping Hue because the court was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt whether Mr. Hue had been, to some degree, a co-operating participant in the events. However, Handule and Abdullahi were convicted of unlawful confinement, which is considered a lesser offence.

Njoku was acquitted of charges of all charges.

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