Interpol chief Meng Hongwei under investigation for bribery, China says

Glen Norman
October 8, 2018

Many worldwide observers were alarmed by Meng's election as president of Interpol in 2016, worrying that he might shift the global policing organization's focus and resources over to investigations favored by Beijing, such as hunting down political dissidents or outspoken tycoons who had fled China.

Mr Meng's official biography says he was born in 1953 in the north-eastern city of Harbin and graduated with a degree in law from prestigious Peking University.

CCDI's statement announced that Meng is "under investigation by China's National Supervision Commission (NSC) on suspicion of legal violations", without revealing any further information.

China has been cracking down on corruption under President Xi Jinping. It named South Korean national Kim Jong Yang, who was Senior Vice-President, as acting president.

Earlier on Sunday, Meng's wife said her husband sent her an image of a knife before he disappeared during a trip to their native China.

Mr Meng had been reported missing by his wife after travelling last month from France, where Interpol is based, to China.

She says he sent an image of knife that day, she thinks as a warning he was in danger. Meng's wife had been placed under police protection by the French authorities after receiving threats. But she said she hasn't heard from him since then and does not know what happened to him.

Fearing for her safety, she spoke with her back to reporters and refused to be photographed.

Meng's unexplained disappearance in China, which had prompted the French government and Interpol to make their concerns known publicly, threatened to tarnish Beijing's image as a rising Asian power.

Apart from being the Interpol president, Meng also served as a Chinese deputy public security minister. He was elected head of Interpol in 2016.

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political analyst said that the fact that China risked "losing face on the worldwide stage" indicated towards something "urgent", adding that had Meng been allegedly involved in an ordinary corruption case, "there would have been no need for the authorities to handle it in such a manner". Amnesty International accused Beijing of attempting to use the police organization to hunt for Chinese dissidents and activists.

Ms Meng said: "His job is very busy".

The reports quoted an unnamed French judicial official as saying that Meng arrived in China at the end of September but there had been no news of him since.

Speaking to reporters in the French city of Lyon, where Interpol is based, on Sunday, Meng's wife Grace Meng appealed for help, saying: "This matter belongs to the worldwide community".

Meng rose up the ranks of the country's domestic security apparatus when it was under the leadership of Zhou Yongkang, a rival to Xi and the highest-ranking official to be brought down on corruption charges.

Interpol has downplayed the concerns, saying the president has little influence over the organisation's day-to-day operations. "If what Meng is involved in is nothing more than an ordinary corruption case, there would have been no need for the authorities to handle it in such a manner", he said.

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