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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

China confirms Interpol chief Meng Hongwei is being held by its anti-corruption body

Statement by Chinese agency was the first official word on his whereabouts since the vice minister for security was reported as missing

Meng Hongwei is said to have resigned as president of Interpol. EPA
Meng Hongwei is said to have resigned as president of Interpol. EPA

China has confirmed it is detaining Meng Hongwei after the head of Interpol and Chinese vice minister for security was reported as missing on Friday.

The statement by a Chinese anti-corruption body was the first official word about Mr Meng since his disappearance was reported in France. He was reported missing by his wife after travelling last month from France, where Interpol is based, to China.

“Public Security Ministry Vice Minister Meng Hongwei is currently under investigation by the National Supervisory Commission for suspected violations of law,” the body said in a brief statement on its website.

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 November meeting of the organisation in Dubai.

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Interpol said earlier in the weekend that it had asked Beijing to clarify Mr Meng’s situation.

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 September 25 and authorities said his wife was under police protection after getting threats.

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.

“As long as I can’t see my husband in front of me, speaking to me, I can’t have any confidence,” Grace Meng was quoted as saying by French TV stations and Sunday newspapers.

The websites of French papers broadcast video clips showing Grace 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.