Vietnam’s relations with Europe look set to deteriorate still further following allegations about the involvement of Slovakia in the abduction of a Vietnamese official last year.
The Slovakian foreign ministry has denied knowingly assisting in the kidnap but warned that Vietnam may have “misused” Slovakian hospitality.
The statement followed reports in the German press that senior Slovakian officials had met Vietnamese suspects three days after the abduction in Berlin last July and may have supplied a government plane for their onward journey to Moscow.
The Vietnamese fugitive, Trinh Xuan Thanh, and a female companion, were seen being bundled into a car in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park on July 23, but it has remained a mystery how they were taken out of the country.
Thanh appeared on state television in Hanoi a week later saying that he had returned home voluntarily.
He was sentenced to two life terms earlier this year on charges of embezzlement and economic mismanagement during his time as head of a state construction company.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung now reports, on evidence taken from GPS records, that a car hired in Prague by the kidnappers was parked at a hotel run by the Slovakian government in Bratislava on July 26.
Inside the hotel, at the same time, the Slovakian interior minister and other officials were holding talks with the Vietnamese Minister of Public Security, To Lam, and the deputy head of Vietnamese intelligence, General Duong Minh Hung.
German prosecutors suspect that General Hung had flown to Berlin earlier in the month to personally supervise the abduction of Thanh.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine followed up the report with another saying that Slovakian authorities had provided a plane that may have taken the Vietnamese back home via Moscow.
The implication is that Thanh could have been on the same plane, answering the question about how he was spirited out of the heart of Europe.
The Slovakian government responded quickly to the suggestion that it may have assisted the Vietnamese operation.
“The Interior Ministry is seriously concerned that the visit of Vietnamese Minister of Public Security To Lam to Slovakia last year might have been misused for something other than working and friendly purposes”, said the statement.
It said that Slovakia had been working closely with German officials since last August and was providing maximum assistance.
“If the information provided by the German authorities is confirmed, we’ll 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 destabilisation of the well-functioning bilateral relations between the two countries,” went on the government statement.
Further revelations are expected as the trial continues in Berlin of an alleged Vietnamese agent, Long NH, who is accused of hiring the vehicles used in the abduction.
Long is a Czech citizen of Vietnamese origin who runs a currency exchange business in Prague.