Attempt to stop flight of corrupt officials

Germany says Trinh Xuan Thanh was kidnapped in Berlin in broad daylight. Vietnam says he returned home voluntarily to face justice.

The Communist party has taken steps to prevent corrupt members from fleeing abroad, opening itself up to jibes that it’s bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The party has suffered severe embarrassment over the flight of wanted officials to Germany and Singapore over the last year.

Inspection committees are now being given powers to issue travel bans on party members suspected of wrongdoing.

The politburo approved the new measures this week as the party leadership attempts to improve its image with a severe crackdown on corruption.

The party authorities will also be able to freeze the assets of officials suspected of graft or of laundering undeclared funds.

Current and former executives of the state oil company, PetroVietnam, bankers, and officials from Vietnam’s third largest city, Danang, have been the most prominent targets of the campaign so far.

The party’s general-secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, has made the anti-corruption drive his top priority but suffered a loss of face when two wanted officials fled the country last year.

He faces further humiliation following the German government’s direct charge that Vietnam carried out the abduction of one of the fugitives, Trinh Xuan Thanh, from a park in central Berlin last summer.

Germany had brushed aside earlier requests from Hanoi that Mr Thanh be extradited.

A Danang property tycoon, Phan Van Anh Vu, also managed to flee the country, but was quickly deported from Singapore last December after a request from the Vietnamese government.

The Vietnamese authorities regularly prevent the departure of political dissidents and other government critics, but this is the first time the leadership has moved to block the departure of party members.