Broker of P1.3-B AFP helicopter deal sentenced in US
Joseph Lariosa (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2015 - 11:00am

CHICAGO – A partner of a dealer of helicopters and parts based in Olivehurts, California, who brokered the controversial sale of 21 refurbished helicopters to the Philippine Air Force for P1.3 billion, has been sentenced to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and prohibited brokering charges before the US Eastern District Court of Virginia in Alexandria.

Judge James Cacheris of the US District Court for Eastern District of Virginia also ordered Thach Hoang Nguyen to pay Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) $630,984.41 in restitution after pleading guilty to wire fraud.

Nguyen admitted to devising a scheme to defraud by means of wire communication in the interstate commerce.

Nguyen also pleaded guilty to prohibited brokering, attempted exportation of defense articles from the US to Vietnam and engaging in brokering activities without obtaining a license.

Nguyen was an unnamed defendant in a civil suit filed by RASI before the US District Court of Eastern District of California in Sacramento which asked the court to compel Australians Patrick Soars and Peter Wieland of Wieland Aviation Group (WAG) and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL) Pty. Ltd., to award compensatory and punitive damages.

Nguyen is also a defendant in a brokering case in the Eastern District of Texas for exportation of defense articles, 2000 AK-103 rifles, from US to Vietnam.

A resident of Northern Virginia, Nguyen was accused of deceiving RASI and evading US Department of State and other government agencies in the maintenance and refurbishment of Bell helicopters.

Nguyen also represented himself as lawyer for the US and claimed to have a meeting with Thai Royal Armed Forces, Vietnam defense officials as well as with Philippine defense officials for the purchase of light machine gun and other military materiel.

He also represented himself as counsel for several companies in the US and abroad and used a false address of his office in Falls Church, Virginia.

Nguyen represented himself as a lawyer and an employee of the US State Department to RASI to help them in obtaining approval from the US government.

Nguyen admitted misrepresenting himself to RASI and to assist the firm in bidding on a contract for the sale of German helicopters to the Philippines.

RASI’s CEO and president Robert Rice expressed interest to buy 21 military-grade helicopters from Germany subject to the approval of the US State Department.

Since he lacked the expertise in dealing with the US State Department to obtain approval, he turned to Nguyen for assistance.

He said Nguyen was introduced to him through a mutual contact and assisted him in a previous deal with the Philippine government prior to the purchase of the subject helicopters in Germany.

Rice and Nguyen traveled to Germany to formalize the agreement and managed to transport the helicopters from Germany to the US to be refurbished for sale to the Philippines.

Rice also later partnered with EagleCopters.

Nguyen went to the Philippines to represent RASI in “bidding on contracts but did not receive the contract.”

In 2013, Rice received a call from a representative familiar with the tender for the helicopters for the Philippine Air Force. The representative, who was not identified, became Rice’s representative and asked Nguyen to come to the Philippines.

Upon Nguyen’s arrival in the Philippines, Rice learned that Nguyen was a fake.

In December 2013, Rice entered into a contract with the Philippine government for the sale of 21 helicopters for P1,264,977,615.52.

Before Rice made entry with the Philippine contract Nguyen demanded a portion of the profits from the sale of helicopters to the Philippine government.

Rice rejected their demands since Nguyen and the defendants were not partners in the purchase and sale of helicopters and funded none of the associated costs.

When Nguyen sent notices that Rice was not the true owner of the helicopters and had no rights to sell, both Wieland and Soars, on behalf of both WAG and ANL, sent letters containing the statements to the Philippine government but also the US and German governments.

The Philippine Senate is looking into irregularities in the purchase of the 21 helicopters.

Published reports alleged that bidding for the aircraft was rigged to favor RASI, and that an older model of the UH-1 series was passed off as UH-1H. Philippine defense officials say the deal is aboveboard.

The Department of National Defense has partially cancelled the heli- copter order, attributing to delivery delays its decision to take only eight of the 21 aircraft.

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