France opens probe into missing Chinese head of Interpol

Arturo Kim
October 8, 2018

His disappearance was made public on Friday, when French authorities said they were opening an investigation to find out what happened to Meng, a Chinese national who served a lengthy term as the vice minister for public security.

The International Criminal Political Investigation (Interpol) has officially asked China for information regarding the disappearance of the agency's President Meng Hongwei on a trip to China.

But Interpol walks a fine line between its noble mission - facilitating worldwide police co-operation - and the politics and policies of some of its member countries.

"Interpol is aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of Interpol President Meng Hongwei".

There has been no news regarding his whereabouts since he left Interpol's headquarters in Lyon for his native China on September 28. His term in Lyon runs until 2020. But on Thursday, Chinese tax authorities spoke publicly about her disappearance public, ordering her and companies she represents to pay taxes and penalties totalling $180 million.

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, has suggested that Meng may have been the latest target of an ongoing campaign against corruption in China.

Beijing saw Meng's election as a chance to enlist more worldwide help in tracking down alleged economic criminals, including corrupt officials, targeted by President Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign.

Roderic Broadhurst, a professor of criminology at Australian National University, said Meng's disappearance would be "pretty disconcerting" for people in global bodies that work with China, and could ultimately damage China's efforts to develop cooperative legal assistance measures with other countries.

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The French police acted swiftly and launched a probe for Meng on Friday after being contacted by his wife.

"It is freaky", Broadhurst said Saturday, noting China most likely would "brush off" any political damage to Beijing's involvement in worldwide bodies.

FILE - In this July 4, 2017 file photo, Interpol President, Meng Hongwei, walks toward the stage to deliver his opening address at the Interpol World congress in Singapore.

But the drive, known as Operation Fox Hunt, has led to claims in some countries that Chinese law enforcement agents have been operating covertly on their soil without the approval or consent of local authorities.

In particular, Mr Meng probably dealt extensively with former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.

"Yellow notices" are issued for missing persons.

In the role Meng has been entrusted with a number of sensitive portfolios, including heading up the country's counter-terrorism division, which saw him in charge of the response to several major incidents in China's fractious western region of Xinjiang.

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