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article imageGermany jails Vietnam man who aided Cold War-style abduction

By AFP     Jul 25, 2018 in Crime

A German court on Wednesday sentenced a Vietnamese man to nearly four years in jail for taking part in a brazen Cold War-style kidnapping ordered by Hanoi of an oil executive from a Berlin park.

Judges at the Berlin court said the 47-year-old Czech-Vietnamese national, identified as Long N.H., was guilty of aiding an abduction and working for a foreign intelligence service.

But they handed him a relatively mild sentence of three years and ten months after he confessed to his involvement.

Long N.H. admitted during his trial that he rented the vehicle used in last July's abduction of fugitive Vietnamese state company official Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was spirited back to Hanoi.

In a statement, the presiding judge described the kidnapping as "a blatant violation of the sovereignty of Germany, unprecedented in recent history".

But judges also agreed that while the accused knew about the kidnapping plans by the Vietnamese secret service, he did not belong to the top level of command.

The kidnapped man, Thanh -- a senior Communist party functionary who was seeking political asylum in Germany -- has since been sentenced to two life terms in Vietnam on corruption charges.

The 52-year-old and his female companion Thi Minh P. D. were walking in Berlin's Tiergarten park when they were dragged into a van in broad daylight and smuggled back to Vietnam.

The German government was outraged, calling it a "scandalous violation" of its sovereignty. It expelled two Vietnamese diplomats and summoned the ambassador several times.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has always insisted that Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction, returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.

Thanh's German lawyer, Petra Schlagenhauf, has described the kidnapping as "like a story from the Cold War".

- Slovakian plane? -

Long N.H., was once among thousands of so-called guest workers in communist East Germany. He was later denied asylum and resettled in Prague.

He was arrested there last August and extradited to Germany days later.

He admitted renting the van used in the abduction in Prague and driving it to Berlin, but he was not at the wheel during the kidnapping. He then drove the van back to Prague. He also rented another vehicle involved in the operation.

It remains unclear exactly how Thanh was transported back to his home country, but judges said in their statement they believed he was flown to Hanoi via Bratislava and Moscow.

German media have reported that a Slovakian government plane lent to a visiting Vietnamese delegation at the time was involved in the transfer.

Slovakia has said it noticed nothing suspicious about the delegation or their flights, but warned Hanoi of harsh consequences if the allegations proved true.

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