Police probe Interpol president disappearance

The Chinese president of Interpol, the international police agency, has vanished. Meng was not on French soil when he was last seen, according a senior French law enforcement official, who declined to say whether he was in China. CNN's Jim Bittermann reports.

Posted: Oct 6, 2018 11:42 PM
Updated: Oct 6, 2018 11:54 PM

Interpol said Saturday it has asked Chinese authorities for information about the agency's president, Meng Hongwei, who was reported missing Thursday.

In statement posted to Twitter, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said, "Interpol has requested through official law enforcement channels clarification from China's authorities on the status of Interpol President Meng Hongwei."

"Interpol's General Secretariat looks forward to an official response from China's authorities to address concerns over the President's well-being," the statement continued.

Meng, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, was the first Chinese official to become president of Interpol, which is based in Lyon. He was not on French soil when he was last seen, according a senior French law enforcement official, who declined to say whether he was in China.

Interpol, or the International Police Criminal Organization, facilitates international police cooperation.

Meng's wife went to police in Lyon Thursday night to report his disappearance, according to a statement released by the French Interior Ministry on Friday. She told police that she had last heard from him 10 days ago and had recently received threats via social networks and by telephone, according to the statement.

"France is looking into the situation of the President of Interpol and is concerned about the threats his wife has received," the statement said.

It adds that a "suitable police mechanism" was put in place to guarantee her safety, and that the prosecutor's office in Lyon has opened an investigation.

A spokeswoman for Interpol, who declined to give her name, refused to say whether Meng was on official business in China when he was last heard from.

"Interpol is aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of Interpol President Meng Hongwei. This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China," Interpol said in a statement. "Interpol's General Secretariat headquarters will not comment further."

CNN has contacted Chinese authorities for comment.

Meng, who is China's vice minister for public security and a former head of Interpol China, was elected president of Interpol in November 2016.

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper known for its connections inside the Chinese government, reported that Meng is under investigation in China for unspecified reasons.

"Meng Hongwei, 64, who is also a vice-minister at China's Ministry of Public Security, was 'taken away' for questioning by discipline authorities 'as soon as he landed in China' last week," the Post reported, citing an unnamed source.

Although the newspaper report says it's "unclear" what he's being investigated for, Meng's vanishing act bears hallmarks of what happens to senior officials when they are suspected of violating party rules, usually alleged corruption.

Meng oversees the agency's executive committee, which sets overall strategy. Interpol's secretary-general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the organization.

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