During a meeting of Slovak and Vietnamese politicians at the Bôrik government hotel on July 26, 2017, a vehicle of people suspected of abducting a convicted Vietnamese politician and head of a state firm, Trinh Xuan Thanh, was probably parked at the hotel, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily writes. It allegedly happened three days after Thanh’s abduction, based on GPS records the German prosecution has at its disposal.
The Vietnamese secret service abducted him from Germany last summer, the Sme daily wrote on April 30, quoting German media. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suggested that Slovakia might have helped Vietnam cover the abduction.
The Slovak Interior Ministry expressed concerns and admitted that the Vietnamese delegation had hastily changed its itinerary and therefore provided the delegation a government plane. Originally, the Vietnamese delegation was not even supposed to arrive to Slovakia but land in Vienna. Due to undisclosed reasons, they were re-routed to Prague, “because of this change and the general ensuing programme in Moscow, we offered the governmental plane to fly them from Prague to Bratislava, and then Moscow”, Sme cited the Interior Ministry, without specifying who was onboard the plane.
What happened last summer?
Vietnamese Minister of Public Security, To Lam, held talks with then-interior minister of Slovakia, Robert Kaliňák, on July 26, 2017. The visit might have been misused for something other than working and friendly purposes, the ministerial press department wrote to the TASR newswire.
The Slovak Interior Ministry has cooperated with German investigation bodies.
“If the information provided by the German authorities is confirmed, we will view that as a manifestation of gross unfairness on the part of the Vietnamese partner, as an abuse of our hospitality for other than friendly relations, and as a destabilisation of the well-functioning bilateral relations between the two countries,” the Interior Ministry wrote, as quoted by TASR, adding that the meeting was arranged during a previous visit the Slovak delegation paid to Vietnam with the aim of strengthening cooperation between Slovakia and the communist country.
They are also communicating with the Vietnamese side to check on the passengers onboard the plane on the given date.
Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said on TV Markíza’s special talk show on April 29 that he will require a detailed report on whether or not Slovakia was involved in the kidnapping, adding that he has no detailed information as of now.
The German media reported that Slovakia might be involved in the case of abducting the Vietnamese entrepreneur Trinh Xuan Thanh, 51, kidnapped in the summer of 2017 from Germany. According to the German media, Thanh was probably kidnapped by the Vietnamese secret service. Germany linked the case with the visit of To Lam to Slovakia, as some suspects might have appeared in Lam’s presence during his visit to Bratislava.
Thanh, who was convicted of corruption and embezzling millions of dollars by a court in Vietnam, fled the Asian country in 2016 and sought political asylum in Germany. He had ties to the previous reformist Vietnamese PM and his troubles began after the situation changed in 2016.
Berlin accused Vietnam of abducting Thanh, calling it a violation of German and international law. Vietnam denied the abduction allegation and says Thanh returned voluntarily, TASR wrote.
Vietnam is an important partner
The ruling Smer party considers Vietnam a crucial economic partner, even more important than the USA, as Economy Minister Peter Žiga said last year, as reported by the Denník N daily . It also added that the Vietnamese from the community living in Slovakia, Le Hong Quand, a special advisor of then-Slovak PM Robert Fico, invited the companies Viettel, MobiFone and VNPT to invest in Slovakia.
Currently, he is the top diplomat representing Slovakia in Vietnam, a chargé d’affaires, since the ambassadorial post is vacant. Le Hong Quand has Slovak citizenship but it is not clear how he got to work at the embassy in Hanoi, according to Denník N.