A German court has sentenced a Vietnamese man to three years and 10 months in jail for taking part in a daytime kidnapping of a self-exiled oil executive from a Berlin park.
Judges at the Berlin court found the Czech-Vietnamese national, identified as Long NH, 47, guilty of aiding an abduction and working for a foreign intelligence service.
He was given a relatively short sentence after he confessed to his involvement with the Hanoi-organised plot.
“The accused knew of the plans of the Vietnamese secret service, but did not belong to the top level of command,” the German judges ruled.
Long NH confined to the court that he rented the van used in last July’s abduction of the fugitive Vietnamese state company boss Trinh Xuan Thanh (pictured), who was taken back to Vietnam.
Thanh, 52, a former Communist Party official, was seeking political asylum in Germany after being accused of building up around US$150 million in losses at state oil firm PetroVietnam Construction, as part of an anti-corruption drive.
Vietnam issued an international arrest warrant for Thanh and he has now been jailed for two life terms on corruption charges.
Thanh was walking with a companion in Berlin’s Tiergarten when they were dragged into a van and spirited back to Vietnam.
How he was taken to Vietnam is unclear. It is thought he was taken by car to Slovakia because a Slovak government plane had been on loan to a visiting Vietnamese delegation.
Berlin has expressed outrage, calling it a “scandalous violation” of German sovereignty.
Having Vietnam’s intelligence networks examined during a long trial in Germany has been a serious blow to the secretive state.
The kidnap was intended to send a message of strength across Vietnam’s state sector but it has instead lifted a lid on operations in Slovakia and Germany. It also put the commander reputed to be behind the abduction, secret police general Duong Minh Hung, in the spotlight.
The court heard how he made phone calls and sent texts to operatives while in Berlin.
Thanh gave a televised confession soon after arriving back in Vietnam, which his lawyer said had been coerced.
Hanoi claimed Thanh returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.
But Thanh’s German lawyer, Petra Schlagenhauf, said the kidnapping was “like a story from the Cold War”.
Long NH was once among thousands of so-called Gastarbeiter (guest workers) in communist East Germany but was denied asylum and resettled in the Czech Republic.
He was arrested in Prague last August after a witness took a photograph of the van’s registration and extradited to Germany days later.
Trinh Xuan Thanh on his return to Vietnam. Picture credit: YouTube