March 7, 2018 / 10:36 AM / 13 days ago

Germany charges Vietnamese man in ex-oil executive kidnapping

BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors have charged a Vietnamese citizen for helping to kidnap high-profile oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh in central Berlin last July, from where he was whisked to Vietnam and imprisoned as part of a corruption crackdown.

The case, reminiscent of Cold War-style disappearances, angered Berlin and soured relations with Hanoi. German officials accused Vietnamese spies of abducting Thanh and his female companion from a public street in broad daylight.

In a statement released on Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the 47-year-old man had been formally charged on Feb. 28 with taking part in secret service activity and assisting in the deprivation of personal freedom.

They said Thanh and the woman had been bundled into a truck and taken to the Vietnamese embassy in Berlin on July 23. It is unclear, they said, how Thanh got to Vietnam but his companion was flown to Hanoi hours after she was seized.

“The kidnapping of (Thanh) and his companion was carried out by Vietnamese secret service employees, other people from the embassy in Berlin and a few Vietnamese citizens living in Europe, including the suspect,” said prosecutors.

The suspect was arrested in the Czech Republic in August and handed to German authorities and remains in detention.

Prosecutors identified him only as Long. N.H. and said he had been responsible for various logistical tasks in the kidnapping.

In Prague, he hired the truck believed to have been used in the kidnapping, drove it to Berlin and later returned it after the abduction, they said.

He also drove back to Prague with another vehicle, a BMW X5, which had been used for observation and reconnaissance, said prosecutors.

In January, Thanh was sentenced to life in prison in Vietnam for violating state regulations and embezzlement, part of a Communist party-led crackdown the government says is targeting fraud and mismanagement.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Catherine Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky

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