‘Missing’ Chinese Interpol chief detained over alleged crimes, says Beijing
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‘Missing’ Chinese Interpol chief detained over alleged crimes, says Beijing

THE Chinese head of Interpol, who disappeared after returning to the mainland last month, has been detained for alleged criminal activity, Beijing said on Monday while the world police organisation confirmed his resignation.

The announcement of Meng Hongwei’s arrest came days after his wife said his life could be in danger after she received a final text message from his phone that came with a knife emoji.

According to the AFP, Beijing had remained tight-lipped about the fate of Meng, who is also China’s vice minister for public security, since his disappearance was disclosed by French officials on Friday.

The National Supervisory Commission — which handles corruption cases involving public servants — broke the official silence early Monday, saying in a one-line statement that Meng “is currently under investigation on suspicion of violating the law”.

Interpol said it had received Meng’s resignation “with immediate effect” soon after Beijing’s announcement.

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Meng’s disappearance in China is the latest in a string of high-profile cases, where a number of top government officials, billionaire business magnates and even an A-list celebrity have vanished for weeks or months at a time. The missing individuals often reappear in court.

Meng, the first Chinese president of Interpol, was last heard from on Sept 25 as he left Lyon — where the world police body is based — for China.

The agency’s secretary general Juergen Stock, who oversees day-to-day operations, had said Saturday that it was seeking “clarification” on his whereabouts from Chinese authorities.

According to a source close to the inquiry, French police had opened an investigation into Meng’s disappearance last week.

Meng, 64, had lived with his wife and two children in France since being elected Interpol president in 2016 for four years.

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French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb (L) looks on as Britain’s Prince Charles (R), the Prince of Wales, shakes hands Interpol’ president Meng Hongwei (L), during a visit to the headquarters of international police organisation Interpol in Lyon, central eastern France, on May 8, 2018. Source: AFP

The agency said it will elect a new president next month at its general assembly in Dubai for the remaining two years of Meng’s term.

Speaking to reporters in France on Sunday, Meng’s wife Grace said she had received a message from his phone containing a knife emoji before his disappearance.

That day, she said he sent a message telling her to “wait for my call”, before sending the emoji signifying danger.

“This matter belongs to the international community,” she told a press conference.

“I’m not sure what has happened to him,” she said.

Later, upon learning about the announcement from China’s anti-graft commission, she told AFP that her husband’s case will be under the watch of “international law and international public opinion”, describing the situation as “political ruin”.

China’s recently established National Supervisory Commission holds sweeping powers to investigate the country’s public servants with few requirements for transparency.

Although the commission did not detail the allegations against Meng, its mandate is to investigate corruption cases as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign.

Analysts said Meng’s disappearance could harm China’s efforts to build cooperative agreements with other countries on legal and law enforcement issues along with it chances of having officials appointed to senior positions within global institutions, according to the South China Morning Post.

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Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said, however, that the Chinese government were well aware of those risks before arresting Meng.

“I’m pretty sure they would have expected an extraordinary response from the international community before taking such a decision,” he was quoted as saying.

“I guess something urgent must have happened. That’s why [the authorities] choose to take such immediate action, at the risk of losing face on the international stage.

“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.”

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