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Vietnamese man extradited to Germany over 2017 kidnapping

June 2, 2022

The Vietnamese suspect is accused of taking part in the high-profile abduction of fugitive oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh in Berlin. The alleged spy was detained in Prague earlier this year and is now in German custody.

Statement from Thinh Xuan Thanh broadcast on Vietnamese television
Former oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh reappeared on Vietnamese television after his alleged kidnapping in Berlin Image: KHAM/REUTERS

A Vietnamese man believed to have been involved in a 2017 Cold War-style abduction of a high-profile businessman has been sent from the Czech Republic to Germany, German prosecutors said Thursday.     

The suspect is believed to have played a role in the kidnapping of former Vietnamese oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh.

What do we know so far?

A statement from the Public Prosecutor General at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe said the Vietnamese national, named only as Anh T. L, was handed over to German authorities on Wednesday following his arrest in Prague earlier this year. 

He faces charges of secret service activity and aiding and abetting the deprivation of liberty, according to the office. 

"The kidnapping was carried out by members of the Vietnamese secret service and employees of the Vietnamese Embassy in Berlin as well as several Vietnamese nationals living in Europe, among them Anh T.L.," the statement said.

German authorities said the man in custody "was involved in carrying out the operation, spying on the victim and acting as a driver of vehicles used in the operation." 

What happened during the 2017 kidnapping?

Thanh was forced into a van in July 2017 in central Berlin along with his female companion. The couple were then dragged back to Vietnam.  

Thanh, a Communist Party functionary, was the chairman of the state-run PetroVietnam Construction JSC from 2009 to 2013. The company endured massive financial losses under his management.

Thanh was a fugitive seeking political asylum in Germany prior to his disappearance. 

After his return to Vietnam, Thanh was sentenced to two life sentences due to corruption charges.

The Vietnamese government claims Thanh went back to Vietnam voluntarily.  

Vietnamese Embassy in Berlin
Germany previously summoned the Vietnamese ambassador several times over the kidnappingImage: Joko/Bildagentur-online/picture alliance

Thanh abduction caused diplomatic rift between Germany, Vietnam 

The kidnapping soured relations between Berlin and Hanoi. 

In July 2018, a Berlin court convicted Czech-Vietnamese national Long N.H. of being involved in the abduction. He received a sentence of only three years and 10 months after confessing to the crime. 

The German government viewed the kidnapping as an infringement of national sovereignty. Germany also expelled two Vietnamese diplomats over the abduction and protested to the Vietnamese ambassador.    

wd/nm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)