The president of international police group, Interpol, has allegedly gone missing after he went to China.
A French judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for an ongoing investigation, said Meng Hongwei’s wife reported him missing on Friday.
The official said the Interpol chief left Lyon in France, where the international police organization is based, and arrived in China at the end of September. She said there had been no news of him since.
The 64-year-old Meng Hongwei was elected president of Interpol in November 2016. His term is due to run until 2020.
News of the investigation into Meng’s disappearance came during a weeklong public holiday in China. In Beijing, the foreign and public security ministries did not immediately respond to calls and faxed requests for comment Friday.
Meng Hongwei’s rise to Interpol president
A vice minister of public security in China, he previously served as vice chairman of the national narcotics control commission and director of the National Counter-Terrorism Office for China.
Meng was named president of Interpol in 2016. Rights groups had expressed concern at the time that Beijing might try to use Meng’s position at the body to go after dissidents abroad. Interpol’s main function is to provide a mechanism for police forces in different countries to notify each other of wanted suspects.
Beijing has tried for many years to enlist the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes including corruption and terrorism.
Meng’s duties in China would have put him in close proximity to former leaders, some of whom had fallen afoul of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping crackdown on corruption. In particular, Meng likely dealt extensively with former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.
Xi has also placed a premium on obtaining the return of officials and businesspeople accused of fraud and corruption from abroad, making Meng’s position all the more sensitive.
What Interpol has said
Interpol said on Friday it was aware of reports of the “alleged disappearance” of its president Meng Hongwei and said the issue was a matter for the relevant authorities in France and China.
“This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China,” Interpol’s press office said in a statement, adding that the organisation’s secretary general, not Meng, was responsible for the day-to-day running of Interpol.
“Interpol’s General Secretariat headquarters will not comment further.”
with inputs from Reuters and AP