Vietnamese State President To Lam “is facing a prison sentence”

On the afternoon of May 24, 2024 iDnes, the electronic version of the daily newspaper with the highest number of readers in the Czech Republic, ran a headline that startled everyone with the article: “Vietnam’s new State President is involved in kidnapping, Slovakia has probed.”

The following is the content of the article:


“New Vietnamese State President To Lam just took office on Wednesday, but since March has been prosecuted in Slovakia. Because in his previous position as Minister of Public Security, he was involved in the kidnapping of Vietnamese citizens in Berlin and brought to Vietnam, an incident in which the Vietnamese delegation borrowed a special plane from the Slovak government. In theory, the head of state in Southeast Asia is facing a prison sentence,” the article begins.

Last week, Minister of Public Security To Lam was nominated by communist party leaders and on Wednesday was voted on by the National Assembly. This sixty-six-year-old man rose to the top position of Vietnam’s police in 2016. And a year later, along with a number of other state officials through the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia, kidnapped businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh from Germany.

From the Slovak state, which at that time was under the leadership of Prime Minister Robert Fico, the Vietnamese temporarily borrowed a government plane. In April, Slovak police for this incident that happened seven years ago charged seven people, including Vietnamese secret police officers and Quang Le Hong, then advisor to Prime Minister Robert Fico.


Now, Vietnamese journalist Le Trung Khoa on social networking platform X has just published documents including the name of the state president of the Asian country. That was the decision of the State Criminal Agency (NAKA), the elite force of the Slovak police that specializes in investigating the most serious crimes.

This document from the end of March states that the police probed a Vietnamese citizen with the same name and date of birth, accused of ‘committing the especially serious crime of kidnapping and taking people abroad.’ According to SME daily, even the legal representative for the kidnapped businessman in Germany Petra Schlagenhauf also confirmed that this document is real.

Former high-ranking communist party member Trinh Xuan Thanh was kidnapped on July 23, 2017 in broad daylight in central Berlin with a woman by his side. Vietnamese secret agents had previously followed them thanks to a car rented at Sapa market in Prague. The kidnappers in the van were also found in the Czech Republic and then with Trinh Xuan Thanh inside, they moved via Brno to Bratislava. And park the car next to the government guest house.


There, on July 26 of that year, a quick meeting of the Slovak and Vietnamese delegations led by the Interior Ministers took place. Slovakia’s host is current Defense Minister Robert Kaliňák, who, after last week’s assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico, is in fact running the Slovak government. After the meeting, the Vietnamese delegation arrived at Bratislava airport and from there flew to Moscow by a special plane of the Slovak government.

There was also a kidnapped man in the plane’s cabin. Delegation members were shocked that Thanh had probably been drugged on the plane with the explanation that he had been too drunk.

The businessman was later sentenced to life in prison for corruption. Because this person was previously suspected of having lost about 125 million euros as director of a state-owned company belonging to the PetroVietnam oil and gas group.

Hanoi affirmed that the businessman, a former high-ranking party member, spent more than ten months in Germany trying to apply for asylum, and voluntarily returned home. But according to the Berlin government, there had been kidnappings and German and international laws had been trampled. Furthermore, before the kidnapping, the German diplomatic service refused extradition.


In theory, Vietnam’s State President is threatened with a prison sentence

Up to now, the Bratislava government has firmly denied any involvement in the kidnapping. But in the past Robert Kaliňák once admitted, that “the Vietnamese may have taken advantage of our hospitality.” “I cannot imagine that even the minister himself is involved in such games,” Robert Kaliňák asserted in the media at that time.

Regarding the kidnapping in Germany, two people were sentenced to prison, one was one of the kidnappers and the other was a van driver who also acted as a Vietnamese secret service agent. German investigators stated in their judgment that Minister To Lam came to Bratislava on July 26, 2017 for the meeting to take advantage of the opportunity to secretly bring Thanh back to Vietnam.

According to Sme daily, in Germany the new president of Vietnam was not prosecuted because of concerns about diplomatic immunity. But according to Slovak law, any perpetrator of a serious crime to the level that To Lam is currently being prosecuted for will be difficult to avoid a prison sentence of ten to fifteen years. It is unknown how the police will act if, for example, this defendant visits Slovakia in his capacity as Vietnam’s State President.

The former minister served in the police for forty years. Ben Swanton from the group fighting for freedom of speech in Vietnam, The 88 Project, shared with an AP reporter that under his supervision, the country began to become increasingly harsh with every critical voice. “After becoming president, it is true that Vietnam becomes a police state,” Ben Swanton warned, adding that the top positions in the party are currently held by former police officers and secret agents.


David Nguyen – (Translated)


Newspapers in Slovakia also reported on the case of Mr. To Lam being criminally probed for organizing kidnapping: Nový vietnamský prezident je ústrednou postavou z kauzy únosu, vyšetruje ho NAKA (