Fugitive Vietnam agent concerned for his safety if sent home

Phan Van Anh Vu (C), who held a senior rank in the Vietnamese secret police, was stopped last week at a border checkpoint in Singapore

A fugitive Vietnamese intelligence officer detained in Singapore has "serious concerns" for his well-being if he were sent home, his lawyer warned Wednesday, a move that could see him condemned to death.

Phan Van Anh Vu was "very frustrated" and could not understand why he had been detained, lawyer Remy Choo said after meeting him.

Vu, also a property developer, was arrested last week at a Singapore border crossing en route to Malaysia. Vietnamese police have said he is being sought for disclosing state secrets without giving further details.

A lawyer in Germany is pushing for the 42-year-old to be sent there, arguing he could help the investigation into a Cold War-style kidnapping in Berlin of a Vietnamese oil executive that sparked a major diplomatic row.

The case was one of the most high-profile in a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown in Vietnam that has seen scores of former officials, bankers and executives from state-run companies arrested and jailed over the past year.

The German lawyer, representing both Vu and the executive who was allegedly kidnapped, Trinh Xuan Thanh, has said Vu held a senior rank in the Vietnamese secret police and warned he could face the death penalty if sent back.

After Wednesday's meeting, Choo said that "there is a very high chance he could get repatriated."

"He has serious concerns for his well-being if sent back," he told AFP.

Vu was "very frustrated because he doesn't understand why this is happening to him," the lawyer added.

He said Vu had used the same travel document, his Vietnamese passport, to enter Singapore before and immigration authorities had not given a reason why he had been detained.

Singaporean officials have publicly confirmed only that Vu was arrested on Thursday last week for allegedly committing immigration offences.

Vietnam does not have an extradition treaty with the city-state but he could be repatriated if convicted of immigration offences.

Observers say Vietnam's anti-corruption sweep, which has echoes of a graft crackdown in Communist China, is being led by a conservative leadership in place since 2016.

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

The abduction of Thanh from a Berlin park last year prompted Germany to decry a "scandalous violation" of its sovereignty but Vietnamese officials insist he returned home voluntarily.