Prague agrees to hand Vietnamese 'kidnapper' to Germany

Trinh Xuan Thanh is seen on a street in Berlin, Germany, Oct 20, 2016.
Trinh Xuan Thanh is seen on a street in Berlin, Germany, Oct 20, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

PRAGUE (AFP) - Czech authorities have agreed to extradite to Germany a Vietnamese national wanted over the alleged kidnapping in Berlin last month of an oil tycoon who subsequently turned up in Vietnam, local media reportedon Wednesday (Aug 23).

According to German media, 51-year-old Vietnamese oil tycoon Trinh Xuan Thanh - who was in Germany seeking asylum, but sought by Hanoi for allegedly causing huge losses to a state-run company - was snatched by armed men on July 23 in Berlin's Tiergarten park.

A Prague court ordered the extradition of a suspected kidnapper, identified only as a 46-year-old Vietnamese national, on Aug 15, the Czech CTK news agency reported Wednesday.

"We took the decision (extradition) on the basis of a European arrest warrant," court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told AFP, but declined to provide further details about the suspect's identity.

Trinh resurfaced in Vietnam on July 31, where state-owned newspapers reported that he had turned himself in to authorities.

Once a lawmaker, he was stripped of his seat and kicked out of the communist party.

According to German news agency DPA, he has been accused of having caused losses amounting to €125 million (S$200 million) at PetroVietnam Construction (PVC), a subsidiary of the country's largest state-run oil conglomerate.

The alleged kidnapping has caused a diplomatic rift between Germany and Vietnam, with Berlin summoning Vietnam's ambassador and expelling one of the southeast Asian nation's spies earlier this month.

Germany foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said at the time that Hanoi's actions marked a "breach of trust" as talks had been underway during the G-20 summit of world leaders in Hamburg about a "possible extradition in a legal manner".

"We demand that Trinh Xuan Thanh be allowed to travel back to Germany without delay, so that Vietnam's request for extradition and his request for asylum can be thoroughly examined," said Schaefer.

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's administration in place since last April has vowed to crack down on endemic corruption and clean up its vast and inefficient state-run sector.

But analysts say punishments are often the result of political infighting rather than a genuine commitment to reform.

Transparency International ranks Vietnam 113 out of 176 on its 2016 corruption index, worse than its South-east Asian neighbours Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.