Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is currently investigating whether one of its employees was involved in the suspected kidnapping of Vietnamese businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh in July.

Ho N. T., who has been suspended for the duration of the investigation and could face legal action, allegedly provided "tips" to the seven-man Vietnamese intelligence squad who traveled to Berlin in July to detain and kidnap Thanh, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

In a statement mailed to DW, the BAMF said that Ho N. T. had been "immediately called to a personnel meeting, and released from his duties" when the accusations came to light in the media. But it also added that "according to current information, there is no direct connection between the employee and the suspected kidnapping."

The office was careful to underline that during his 26-year career at the office, Ho had not been responsible for assessing Vietnamese asylum claims, and that all its employees are bound by duties of loyalty and neutrality.

A stooge of Vietnam's Communist Party ?

But the BAMF also said that it had not been aware of Ho's extracurricular activities. After the abduction was first reported in early August, German media discovered that Ho N. T. had been writing for Vietnam's ruling Communist Party (CPV) and was even officially lauded two years ago for "special services to foreign propaganda" for an article in the party newspaper about the "crisis in western democracy."

In October last year, before it was known that Thanh was even in Germany, Ho N. T. speculated on his Facebook page whether the "criminal" Thanh would be extradited if found in Germany.

Ho N. T. also taunted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who expelled the representative for Vietnam's intelligence agency in the aftermath of the kidnapping. Since Germany was facing new elections next month, Ho N. T. wrote that the whole affair would be forgotten within weeks anyway, and there would be a new government with a new foreign policy.

A Vietnamese spy story

Vietnamese intelligence reportedly hired a seven-seater vehicle in Prague and stayed in a hotel in western Berlin before abducting Thanh on July 23 in the Tiergarten district of the German capital city. His whereabouts were unknown until July 31, when Vietnamese media, citing the country's Ministry of Public Security, reported that Thanh had voluntarily given himself up in Hanoi to criminal investigators who had been searching for him since April.

The German government, who believe that officials from the Vietnamese Embassy were involved, were outraged by what would be a breach of protocol. The German Foreign Ministry demanded Thanh's release and return to Germany so that a proper extradition application could be assessed. The ministry also confirmed that Vietnam had called on Germany to extradite Thanh during the G20 summit in Hamburg. For its part, the Vietnamese government denies that any kidnapping took place.

The 51-year-old Thanh is wanted for corruption and "property misappropriation" in Vietnam, but he is also seen as a pro-Western reformer. He spent a few years in Germany in the early 1990s, and he was a political functionary back in Vietnam for many years before being stripped of all his posts amid corruption accusations in September 2016.

In a communist country where business and politics are closely integrated, Thanh was chairman of the board of the state's PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corporation (PVC) and held a number of leading positions in state companies while simultaneously holding a seat in parliament.

But Thanh now appears to be the victim of a power struggle within the CPV. Conservative communists and pragmatic capitalist reformers have been vying for political domination for some time, with the conservatives currently enjoying the upper hand. Much like in China, anti-corruption campaigns have become a preferred method for weeding out political opponents. Dozens of high-ranking Vietnamese government and party officials have been arrested in the past few months - with some sentenced to death.

By Ben Knight - Deutsche Welle - August 22, 2017

Czechs hand over suspect in Vietnam kidnapping to Germany

German prosecutors say a Vietnamese man suspected of hiring a van used to kidnap a former Vietnamese oil executive in Berlin has been handed over by the Czech Republic.

German authorities have accused Vietnam's intelligence service and embassy of involvement in the kidnap of Trinh Xuan Thanh on July 23, and have kicked out the country's intelligence attache. Vietnam says however that Thanh turned himself in to police in his homeland.

Federal prosecutors said a 46-year-old identified only as Long N.H. was arrested in the Czech Republic Aug. 12 and handed over to Germany Wednesday. They said Thursday he rented the van in Prague July 20 and then brought it to Berlin.

Prosecutors say that the suspect is accused of espionage and being an accessory to unlawful detention.

The Associated Press - August 24, 2017

Germany holds Vietnam 'agent' over Cold War-style abduction

Germany on Thursday remanded in custody a suspected Vietnamese agent accused in the brazen kidnapping of a fugitive state company official in Berlin last month, a case that has badly strained bilateral ties.

The target Trinh Xuan Thanh, 51, who was in Germany seeking asylum was spirited back to Vietnam last month, where he faces corruption charges that carry the death penalty.

One of the alleged agents involved in snatching him from Berlin's Tiergarten park was arrested by Czech authorities soon after the kidnapping.

On Wednesday, he was extradited to Germany, where a judge a day later ordered him to be held in custody.

He was identified only as 46-year-old Long N.H., in keeping with German privacy rules in judicial cases.

He is accused of working for a foreign intelligence service and aiding in an abduction, which each carry sentences of up to 10 years' prison.

German prosecutors say the suspect rented a Volkswagen van in Prague and drove it to Berlin, where several armed men on July 23 dragged Thanh into the vehicle before he was "taken against his will to Vietnam, where he is in state custody".

Thanh's lawyer has told a Berlin newspaper that he may have been taken in an ambulance to an eastern European country and flown out from there.

The unprecedented case angered Germany, which summoned the Vietnamese ambassador, kicked out the representative of the Vietnamese secret service, and decried the "scandalous violation" of its sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned of further steps over the kidnapping, which he said evoked "thriller movies about the Cold War".

The one-party state of Vietnam has waged an aggressive anti-corruption purge but analysts say it is often driven by infighting within the wealthy business-political elite as much as a true commitment to ending graft.

Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation, has been accused of mismanagement that caused losses worth $150 million (127 million euros), and vilified in state-controlled media for flaunting his wealth by driving a Lexus.

Also facing an embezzlement charge related to real estate deals which carries the death penalty, he had quietly slipped out of Vietnam in July last year.

Days after his abduction, a stone-faced Thanh reappeared on Vietnamese state television, which reported he had turned himself in.

Agence France Presse- August 24, 2017