Bizarre kidnapping case ends in two lesser convictions and an acquittal
Abdulkadir Handule, Abdullah Abdullahi, and Obinna Njoku were charged with kidnapping Arnold Hue—but was Hue in on it?
Three men were acquitted on kidnapping charges, though two were found guilty of unlawful confinement, in a high-profile case that ended with three men attempting to escape out of an 11th floor balcony in Burnaby.
Abdulkadir Handule, Abdullah Abdullahi, and Obinna Njoku were charged with kidnapping Arnold Hue between July 2 and July 4 in 2019. Crown prosecutors alleged the three took Hue at gun point from his vehicle at Metropolis at Metrotown, taking him to a nearby condo at #1103-4960 Sanders Street.
Hue, a software developer living in Port Coquitlam, was allegedly held for ransom until police rescued him two days later, according to a June 15 ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Janet Winteringham.
But lawyers for the three accused successfully argued that there was a reasonable doubt that Hue wasn’t taken willingly.
“The three accused say there is ample evidence suggesting Mr Hue willingly participated in a ruse intended to look like a kidnapping for ransom as an effort to extort money from Mr Hue’s criminal associate(s),” Winteringham wrote in her judgment.
“They described Mr Hue as a terrible witness, whose testimony contained lies, inconsistencies, and story-telling. The three accused contend the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Mr Hue was taken without his consent.”
Winteringham said the “entire encounter is highly suspicious,” but added that she “simply cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the movement of Mr Hue was against his will or whether he was a cooperating participant in some scheme, either as characterized by defence counsel or otherwise.”
Still, two of the accused—Handule and Abdullahi—were found guilty of the lesser included offence of unlawful confinement, while Njoku was further acquitted of that offence.
The uncontested facts
On July 2, 2019, at 7:40pm, Handule, Abdullahi, and Njoku met Hue in the Metropolis underground parkade, according to the ruling. The four of them left the parkade two minutes later in a red Dodge Charger driven by Njoku.
CCTV video showed the four men’s arrival at the Sanders Street condo building a few blocks away. Hue was not recorded on CCTV cameras as leaving the apartment until police raided the building after 10pm on July 4.
Police reportedly found Hue laying on the floor in one of the condo’s two bedrooms.
When police raided the building, Handule, Abdullahi, and Njoku attempted to escape out of the balcony, but all three were arrested a short time later.
Handule was found lying on his stomach on a fifth-floor balcony with a loaded semi-automatic Glock handgun by his feet, according to the ruling.
Abdullahi was found in a rhododendron bush, “having fallen from one of the higher floors, with Mr Hue’s cell phone very close to Mr Abdullahi on the ground.”
Winteringham described the fall, which was captured on video, as “alarming,” and he continues to suffer from the injuries from the fall.
“Mr. Njoku jumped from the 11th floor to a 10th floor balcony, broke a sliding glass door, and entered an unoccupied suite. He then walked down a staircase as the residents of the condo were being evacuated,” Winteringham wrote.
“Mr. Njoku attempted to mingle with the occupants. He even picked up a little girl, much to the disapproval of her mother, and carried her down the staircase. He was arrested a few minutes later in the lobby.”
According to the ruling, the 10th-floor unit Njoku broke into was occupied by building manager Mohsen Niktash, who had been directed by police to wait in the suite.
After Njoku walked through the apartment, “uttering the word ‘police’ to Mr Niktash,” he joined the evacuees in the stairwell and picked up a little girl in an attempt to blend in with the crowd. He was captured by CCTV footage handing the girl to her mother in the lobby of the building, where he was arrested.
The CCTV evidence
When the three accused met Hue in the parkade, their cars were hidden from CCTV cameras behind a pillar. Hue had driven to the parkade and entered the TT Supermarket. He was later recorded leaving the same location carrying a cellphone and shopping bag.
And he then drove around the parkade for about 20 minutes, according to the ruling, which noted the last sighting of his Honda Civic was at 7:25pm when it moved behind the pillar.
Seven minutes later, the Dodge Charger driven by the accused was recorded entering the parkade and driving around for eight minutes, until, at 7:40pm, it similarly moved behind the pillar.
The Charger re-emerged 44 seconds later and left the parkade at a notably higher speed than it had been seen travelling before the encounter.
After the vehicle arrived at the 4960 Sanders St condo building, a woman was seen on CCTV cameras entering the elevator area in the parking garage and pressing a button for the elevator.
As the woman waited for the elevator, the cameras caught someone looking through the window of the door to the parking garage. And after the woman entered the elevator, Abdullahi entered the room and pressed the elevator button, followed by Hue and Handule.
Njoku, meanwhile, had been seen driving the Charger out of the garage and parking it on the street, returning to the garage on foot six minutes later.
Over the following two days, the three accused were seen leaving and entering the building at various times, with the last CCTV clip showing Njoku entering the building at 5:49pm, just a few hours before their arrest.
The ruling doesn’t state how police found out the men were in the Sanders Street condo, which was determined to have been owned and lived in by a woman. (There was no evidence the woman was involved in the events, according to the ruling.)
Police seized a number of items from the suite and from the locations of the accused’s arrests, including cell phones with text messages in which the men arranged with the woman to use her suite.
Police also found an unloaded .44 Magnum Desert Eagle handgun, which was determined to be cocked and in working order.
Much of the case relied on the credibility of Hue’s testimony, and Winteringham noted that both the Crown and defence lawyers noted some concerns.
Winteringham said there was a “body of circumstantial evidence” to indicate a kidnapping, but aside from Hue there were no witnesses to the event.
“I … agree with the Crown that portions of his evidence raise concerns about his credibility and reliability,” Winteringham wrote.
“I have considered whether there is any additional evidence about a relevant factor or material aspect of his evidence that could serve to restore my faith in the truthfulness of his evidence and my ability to rely upon it to support a conviction for kidnapping.”
Winteringham specifically took issue with Hue’s testimony about his relationship with David Cheung, and particularly about shipping cannabis for Cheung.
Hue’s fiance at the time of the trial and alleged kidnapping, May-Lin Rettig, had testified that she believed Hue was shipping cannabis for Cheung, something Winteringham said she had no reason to lie about.
Hue, however, was described as being evasive and unforthcoming about his interactions with Cheung, refusing to say that he knew he was participating in illegal activity when doing favours for Cheung.
Winteringham further found Hue’s description of the events on July 2 to be “unbelievable.”
Hue said he had been doing a favour for Cheung, something Winteringham said conflicted with his testimony that he had been avoiding Cheung and that Cheung already owed him $6,000.
The judge described Hue’s descriptions of events that day as “strange,” “untruthful,” and omitting key details.
The alleged kidnapping
He testified that he was then directed to go to Metrotown at around 7pm.
Winteringham described Hue’s testimony of the events at Metrotown as “evasive, inconsistent, and disingenuous.”
Hue told the court he parked in the parkade near the T&T Supermarket and decided to run some errands.
“Based on the whole of the evidence on this point, Mr Hue’s selection of parking stalls, away from the camera, is suspicious,” Winteringham wrote. “It is also remarkable that he could not remember how the accused had found him.”
Winteringham said Hue was “unable (or unwilling) to explain how it was organized that the accused, supposedly unknown to him, would meet him” at the location and time of the alleged kidnapping.
“In my view, these circumstances raise a high level of suspicion about Mr Hue’s complicity in what was to occur next. I am equally baffled by Mr Hue’s testimony about the dealings with the accused behind the pillar,” she wrote.
The simulated videos
Winteringham described videos that depicted Hue in “a degrading context,” including one in which he’s in his underwear in a bathtub with a gun pointed at him, and another with a long-blade knife pointed at him and a substance that looks like blood on the bathtub. A third video showed him lying on his stomach on the bed in a bedroom with his feet and hands bound and a man in a hoodie standing over him, pointing two guns at his head through a pillow.
One video showed him crying as he recited a memory about his grandmother.
Hue testified that he believed the videos were staged.
“However, I agree with the Crown’s submissions that these videos are disturbing and were certainly degrading,” Winteringham wrote.
While Handule and Abdullahi were found guilty of the lesser included forcible confinement charge, instead of the kidnapping charge, Winteringham said Hue stated “limited involvement” with Njoku, and Njoku didn’t participate in making the simulated videos.
She also said she was “not satisfied that the evidence establishes Mr Njoku ever stood watch over Mr Hue” in the condo.
Simply being at the scene of the incident, Winteringham noted, does not imply liability. To prove liability, there needed to be evidence that Njoku encouraged the crime, facilitated the crime, or acted to block or hinder attempts to interfere with the crime. Winteringham said there was no such evidence.
Sentencing for the two convicted will occur at another time.