By My Pham and Mai Nguyen
HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s state television broadcast images on Thursday of a former oil executive saying he had voluntarily returned home to face justice for corruption after Germany said he was abducted in Berlin and taken back by force.
The German foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Vietnam had seized Trinh Xuan Thanh, 51, a former official at state oil company PetroVietnam, who is accused of financial mismanagement that caused losses of around $150 million.
In response, Berlin ordered a Vietnamese intelligence officer to leave Germany within 48 hours and demanded that Thanh be allowed to return to claim asylum. Germany said it was considering other measures against Vietnam.
Thanh, 51, a former high flyer in the Vietnamese oil industry, appeared on state television looking tired, dressed in a polo shirt and with his hair tousled.
It was unclear if he was speaking freely.
“I wasn’t thinking maturely and decided to hide and during that time I realized I need to return to face the truth and … admit my faults and apologize,” Thanh said in a prime-time bulletin on Vietnam Television.
“I decided out of fear to hide in Germany, where I lived a precarious and anxious life,” television quoted Thanh as saying in a signed confession dated July 31. “I returned to Vietnam and presented myself to the investigative authority.”
Police said he had turned himself in on Monday after a 10-month international manhunt.
His lawyer ruled out that version of events.
“He would never have done that. He was scared of going back and what the consequences might be,” his asylum lawyer in Germany, Victor Pfaff, told Reuters.
He said witnesses had described how armed men violently bundled a man and a woman into a car with Czech registration plates outside the Sheraton hotel in western Berlin.
German officials say the account of the kidnapping – which media have compared to Soviet abductions before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – is plausible.
The foreign ministry blamed the Vietnamese intelligence service and embassy for what it called an unprecedented and glaring breach of German and international law.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry expressed regret over a statement from Germany accusing Vietnam of kidnapping him.
“Vietnam very much respects and wants to develop the strategic partnership relation between Vietnam and Germany,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters in Hanoi.
It was not clear whether Thanh had legal representation. Closed-door…