Fugitive Vietnamese real estate developer accused of revealing ‘state secrets’ detained in Singapore

Phan Van Anh Vu was detained in Singapore at the Tuas border checkpoint as he tried to leave for Malaysia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 11:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 9:59pm

A fugitive Vietnamese intelligence officer wanted in his homeland for allegedly disclosing state secrets has been arrested in Singapore, his lawyers said on Tuesday.

Phan Van Anh Vu, who is also a property developer, was detained on Thursday at a border checkpoint as he attempted to cross into Malaysia.

Police in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang said in recent days that Vu, 42, was being sought for “deliberately revealing state secrets” but gave no further details.

His lawyer Remy Choo said he had met Vu’s family, who had confirmed that “apart from being a property developer, he was also a senior officer in the Vietnamese intelligence services”.

“My client’s family are concerned that there is an imminent risk of repatriation,” Choo said.

“I can confirm he has applied for asylum in a European country but I cannot reveal which country this is.”

Another of Vu’s lawyers, Foo Cheow Ming, confirmed his arrest. His lawyers have not yet been allowed to see him.

Singapore authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Singapore has close diplomatic and trade ties to Vietnam. This year, Singapore is also chairing the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations grouping, which has sought to strengthen regional cooperation on all fronts.

His arrest follows a year in which Vietnamese authorities jailed or arrested scores of former officials, bankers and state executives as part of a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown which some observers say is also driven by political infighting.

One of the most high-profile cases involved the alleged kidnapping of a Vietnamese former oil executive in Germany.

Trinh Xuan Thanh was snatched from a Berlin park by Vietnamese security agents in July in a Cold War-style operation that stunned many inside and outside the one-party state. It prompted Germany to decry a “scandalous violation” of its sovereignty.

Vietnamese officials insist Thanh, who will go on trial later this month, returned home voluntarily.

Observers say the anti-corruption sweep, which has echoes of a graft crackdown in Communist China, is being led by a conservative leadership in place since last year.

Many believe it is as much about weeding out political enemies aligned with the former leadership as cracking down on graft.

Additional reporting by Reuters