Former Interpol president Meng Hongwei admits taking US$2 million in bribes

Meng Hongwei appears in court on bribery charges in Tianjin on Thursday. Photo: Weibo. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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TIANJIN, Jun 20, 2019, SCMP. A former head of the international policing agency Interpol appeared in court in northern China on Thursday, pleading guilty to taking over 14 million yuan (US$2 million) in bribes, according to state-run People’s Daily, reported the South China Morning Post.

In a trial at Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People’s Court, Meng Hongwei, the first person from China to head Interpol, admitted using various positions he held from 2005 to 2017 to help companies and people make illegal gains.

The court adjourned and said Meng would be sentenced at a later date.

The trial comes eight months after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s anticorruption watchdog, announced that Meng was under investigation.

The CCDI’s statement confirmed the whereabouts of the 65-year-old, who had not been seen since September 25 last year after leaving his home in the French city of Lyon.

He had sent his wife, Grace Meng, a message on social media telling her to “wait for my call”, along with a knife emoji suggesting he was in some kind of danger.

She reported her husband missing to the French authorities on October 4 and was later put under police protection after receiving threatening messages over the telephone and online. Earlier this year she applied for asylum in France.

Meng Hongwei took over the top job at Interpol in November 2016 and his appointment was hailed by state media as testimony to the international community’s “full recognition” of China’s law enforcement capacity and status as a country based on the rule of law.

Less than a year later, he hosted Interpol’s general assembly in Beijing, where Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to increase China’s support for the agency and help raise its profile.

Before his downfall, Meng, a Peking University law graduate, was among the most powerful police officers in China.

He was appointed a vice-minister of public security in 2004, and head of the Chinese branch of Interpol in August the same year.

During his career, he was in charge of a number of sensitive portfolios, including the country’s counterterrorism division in 2011, when it responded to violence in Xinjiang.

But on March 27 this year, Meng was expelled from the Communist Party and stripped of all his positions for “serious violations of law and discipline”. Chinese prosecutors announced on April 24 that he had been formally arrested in China on suspicion of taking bribes.

After his expulsion, the Ministry of Public Security denounced him, saying his “poisonous influence” had to be “thoroughly eliminated”. The ministry also said it was investigating other party cadres allegedly involved in Meng’s case.

It was announced on May 10 that Meng had been formally charged and would face trial in Tianjin. He was accused of abusing his position and power for personal gain, squandering state funds to finance his family’s extravagant lifestyle, and disregarding the principles of being a party member.

The CCDI also accused Meng of encouraging his wife to use his status to further her own interests.

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