Berlin kidnapping leads to diplomatic freeze between Slovakia and Vietnam
Slovakia may freeze diplomatic relations with Vietnam if allegations that it used the EU country to secretly transport a Vietnamese oil executive back to Hanoi are confirmed, a Slovak foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Sunday.
"Unless we get a plausible explanation from Vietnam of how their kidnapped citizen was transported to Vietnam, our bilateral relations will be frozen," foreign ministry spokesman Boris Gandel told AFP.
Gandel was referring to the kidnapping of Vietnamese citizen Trinh Xuan Thanh from Germany in July 2017. A senior communist party functionary facing corruption charges, Thanh had been seeking political asylum in Germany.
The kidnapped Thanh was spirited back to Hanoi, allegedly via Slovakia, and has since been sentenced to two life terms on charges of corruption during his time as the head of state-run PetroVietnam Construction, a subsidiary of the country's largest oil firm.
In July, a German court sentenced a Vietnamese man to nearly four years in jail for taking part in the brazen Cold War-style kidnapping of the oil executive from a Berlin park.
In August, leading Slovak daily Dennik N published testimonies of unnamed Slovak policemen claiming that "a seemingly drunk and bruised individual" joined an official Vietnamese delegation at Bratislava airport last summer and was dragged into a Slovak government plane.
Slovak officials flatly denied having knowingly participated in the kidnapping. The interior ministry described the Dennik N article as "a fabrication and sci-fi".
Thanh is one of the highest-ranking officials to be sought by the communist government in recent years, as the administration wages an anti-corruption drive to polish its image and clean up bloated state enterprises.
Vietnam has always insisted that Thanh returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.
Vietnam's communist government has taken aim at bankers, businessmen and politicians it accuses of mismanagement as it vows to stamp out corruption. The unprecedented anti-graft campaign has seen scores jailed, many previously thought to be untouchable in one of Southeast Asia's most corrupt countries.
Observers agree the campaign, which has echoes of a similar drive in China, is seeking to clean up corruption -- and also get rid of perceived enemies.