Leaving his home in Lyon, France, for a visit to his homeland, and then vanished — putting the International Criminal Police Organization, best known as Interpol, at the centre of its own missing persons case.
Meng Hongwei, Interpol’s president, boarded a plane and arrived in China, according to a French judicial official. But then, nothing. His wife, who put out a call on Friday, said she hasn’t heard from her 64-year-old husband since the end of September, the official said.
To make matters murkier, Meng is not just the head of Interpol: He’s also a vice minister for public safety in China.
Interpol, based in Lyon, would say only that reports that its president is missing is “a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China”. France launched its own investigation yesterday, according to the judicial official who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly and asked for anonymity.
Whether China was taking action was unknown. But the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, hinted that Meng may have been the latest target of an ongoing campaign against corruption in China.
The newspaper said that upon landing last week Meng was “taken away” for questioning by what it said were “discipline authorities”. The term usually describes investigators in the ruling Communist Party who probe graft and political disloyalty.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s secretive internal investigation agency, had no announcements on its website about Meng and could not be reached for comment.
Meng is the first from his country to serve as Interpol’s president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status and not without political weight. But because Interpol’s secretary-general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the police agency’s operations,
Meng’s absence may have little operational effect.