BEIJING/PARIS (REUTERS) – Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei is under investigation for suspected bribery, China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website on Monday (Oct 8).
On Sunday, Interpol, the France-based global police coordination body, said that Meng had resigned as its president. Earlier on Sunday, China said it was investigating Meng, who is also a vice minister for public security in China, for suspected violations of the law.
“The investigation against Meng Hongwei’s taking and giving bribes and suspected violations of law is very timely, absolutely correct and rather wise,” the ministry said in a statement following an internal meeting.
Mr Meng had been reported missing by his wife after travelling last month from France, where Interpol is based, to China.
Interpol said later that Mr Meng had resigned as president of the organisation, and that South Korean national Kim Jong Yang would become its acting president, while it would appoint a new president at a Nov 18 to 21 meeting of the organisation in Dubai.
Interpol said earlier over the weekend that it had asked Beijing to clarify Mr Meng’s situation.
“Today, Sunday 7 October, (at) the Interpol General Secretariat in Lyon, France received the resignation of Mr Meng Hongwei as President of Interpol with immediate effect,” Interpol said in a statement on Sunday.
When asked about the Chinese announcement on Sunday, France’s Interior Ministry said it had no information.
The French ministry said last Friday that Mr Meng’s family had not heard from him since Sept 25, and French authorities said his wife was under police protection after getting threats.
HUSBAND’S WARNING TO WIFE?
French police have been investigating what is officially termed in France a “worrying disappearance”.
Local French media broadcast a video which they said was from Mr Meng’s wife Grace, in which she issued a brief statement from a hotel in Lyon to express her concerns. Reuters could not confirm the comments attributed to her.
“As long as I can’t see my husband in front of me, speaking to me, I can’t have any confidence,” Mrs Meng was quoted as saying by French TV stations and Sunday newspapers.
The websites of French papers broadcast video clips showing Mrs Meng speaking in a trembling voice, with her back to a TV camera in order to hide her appearance.
“This is a matter for the international community. This matter belongs to my motherland,” she added in the video clips.
French media also reported that Mr Meng had recently sent her a mobile phone message featuring a knife image, as a way of showing her that he felt he was in danger.
Mr Meng, 64, was named to the post of Interpol president in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organisations.
Presidents of Interpol are seconded from their national administrations and remain in their home post while representing the international policing body.
Interpol, which groups 192 countries and is usually focused on finding people who are missing or wanted, is run on a day-to-day basis by its secretary-general, German national Juergen Stock.
When Mr Meng was named Interpol’s president, human rights groups expressed concern that Beijing might try to leverage his position to pursue dissidents abroad.
Beijing has in the past pressed countries to arrest and deport to China citizens it accuses of crimes, from corruption to terrorism. Under President Xi Jinping, China has been engaged in a crackdown on corruption.