The German media are continuing to investigate the circumstances behind the kidnapping of Vietnamese businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh. He was taken in Berlin and transported to Vietnam, in all probability making stops in Bratislava and Moscow, the Slovak Denník N daily wrote on May 14.
Although the Slovak authorities deny that the governmental plane was used for this abduction, the recent article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily questions the statements made by Slovak Interior Minister Denisa Saková describing how all twelve passengers on the plane had passed a police check and arguably had diplomatic passports. She denies that the Slovak security forces cooperated in the kidnapping and claims that Slovakia did not receive the information that an actual kidnapping had taken place until January 2018.
“When using the government plane for the leg between Prague and Bratislava, the whole Vietnamese delegation passed a full police check, all of them had diplomatic passports and nobody boarded the plane handcuffed or under pressure,” Saková said for the political show V Politike (In Politics) on TA3 TV.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) writes, however, that the German authorities sent their first questions to their Slovak counterparts in August 2017 and in November 2017 they formulated the questions so that they pertained to suspected kidnapping. The request for clarification of the record of the Vietnamese visit held by the Slovak police information system came on November 14, 2017, Denník N wrote.
Shortly afterwards, the FAZ wrote that a Bratislava court issued an order for Slovak mobile operators to make available details of the connections of the phone numbers of two people suspected in connection with the abduction.
Possible Slovak involvement
The alleged abduction took place last July, and talks between the Slovak and German authorities at the Bratislava Bôrik cabinet hotel were arranged three days later, with Slovak minister Robert Kaliňák and the Vietnamese delegation with Public Security Minister To Lam attending. According to GPS data, the rented car in which abduction suspects travelled was parked close to the hotel at that time. Slovakia is thought to have helped the Vietnamese representatives in the abduction by lending the government plane to the official Vietnamese delegation, according to the German media.
According to further German findings, Trinh Xuan Thanh was not listed as a passenger on the flight, nor was Le Hong Quang, a Vietnamese businessman living in Slovakia who currently leads the country’s embassy in Vietnam and who was, in the past, advisor to ex-Prime Minister Robert Fico. The names on the official list however, do not automatically mean that Trinh Xuan Thana was not transported on the Slovak cabinet plane.
In addition, one of the abduction suspects, a top officer in the Vietnamese police, General Duong Minh Hung, was officially listed as onboard the plane.
Moreover, minister Saková said in parliament on May 10, in answer to a question by opposition MP Martin Klus (SaS) that the video-recordings from Bratislava airport border checks are only kept by the airport for 14 days and the Interior Ministry for 30 days which is why they are no longer available.
What happened last summer?
The German media reported that Vietnamese entrepreneur Trinh Xuan Thanh, 51, was kidnapped from Germany by the Vietnamese secret service while the country’s Minister of Public Security To Lam was in Slovakia in the summer of 2017. According to the German press, some suspects appeared in Lam’s presence in Bratislava and the Slovak Interior Ministry even provided a plane for the Vietnamese after a sudden change to their plans.
Thanh, who was convicted of corruption and embezzling millions of dollars by a court in Vietnam, fled the country in 2016 and sought political asylum in Germany. Berlin accused Vietnam of abducting Thanh, calling it a violation of German and international law. Vietnam denies the abduction allegation and says Thanh returned voluntarily.