Confession pins abduction on Vietnam

Long is the only member of the kidnap team to face trial in Germany.

A sudden confession by the defendant in the Berlin kidnap case has heaped further discomfort on the Vietnamese government, which continues to deny any involvement in the abduction.

Long NH is on trial in Berlin for his role last July in the kidnap of the former Vietnamese official, Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was later sentenced to two life terms in prison on corruption charges.

Long told the court that he had known from the start that the kidnapping was organised by the Vietnamese intelligence service.

He had previously maintained that he thought he was merely helping a friend and knew nothing about any official involvement.

“Wanted criminal”

Long, who runs a currency exchange business in Prague, hired vehicles for the operation, which saw Thanh and his female companion snatched from a park in Berlin and transported secretly back to Hanoi.

In a written statement reported by the German media, he said he had been told that Thanh was a wanted criminal who had misappropriated a lot of money and that he needed to face trial in Vietnam.

The case plunged relations between Germany and Vietnam into the deep freeze, with Germany expelling Vietnamese diplomats and accusing Vietnamese agents of carrying out the operation.

Vietnam has continued to deny any involvement, insisting that Thanh went home voluntarily to face the charges against him. It has refused demands to return Thanh to Germany where he was applying for political asylum.

Deal for lighter sentence

A former head of the construction arm of the state oil firm, PetroVietnam, Thanh’s flight from Vietnam attracted much attention in the Vietnamese state media. The Communist party boss, Nguyen Phu Trong, made a personal pledge that he would be brought to justice.

Long is the only person to be tried in the kidnap case although German prosecutors have named other suspects, including the deputy head of Vietnamese intelligence, Duong Minh Hung, who allegedly went to Berlin to direct the abduction.

German newspapers reported that Long’s confession was part of a deal to secure a lighter sentence.

They say he could now face a jail term of up to five years for his role in the abduction.

Long said that he had previously been unwilling to tell the truth out of fears for the safety of family members, some of whom are still in Vietnam.