Jail for entrepreneurial spy

Vu's top level contacts in state security were unable or unwilling to save him from jail.

The Ministry of Public Security is a feared institution that relentlessly hunts down government critics, but its reputation for heedless impunity is being undermined by President Trong’s anti-corruption drive.

A runaway spy and property tycoon with close links to the ministry received a 17 year prison sentence this week on charges of abuse of power.

Phan Van Anh Vu’s top level connections to the generals that run state security were not enough to protect him when the president’s anti-graft inquisitors came calling.

Vu made a run for freedom with his own passport and a fake one in reserve, attempting to get to Germany where he could offer valuable information on the activities of Vietnam’s secret service.

But he was stopped in Singapore and quickly handed over to his accusers in Hanoi.

Already serving an eight year sentence for disclosing state secrets, Vu has now been found guilty of embezzling some $8 million in a fraudulent share scheme.

Few details have been given as to how a senior espionage agent also became a wealthy property developer in Da Nang and why he fell foul of the current party leadership.

But Vu’s spectacular fall from grace underlines Trong’s message that even those at the highest levels of the Communist party and its security apparatus are subject to his drive to reduce corruption.

The entrepreneurial agent was accused of pocketing more than $8 million that was designated for the purchase of stocks in the partially state owned Dong A Bank.

The bank’s former chief executive, Tran Phuong Binh, received a life sentence.

The scandal of Vu’s flight from the country and subsequent repatriation followed an even greater embarrassment for the security services – the abduction in broad daylight on a Berlin street of another fugitive business figure, Trinh Xuan Thanh.

The kidnapping poisoned relations with a major trading partner and friendly country, but President Trong got his way and Thanh is now serving a life sentence in a Vietnamese jail.