Interpol President Meng Hongwei has been reported missing by his wife after travelling to China, his native country, last week.
The 64-year-old lives in Lyon with his family, who have not heard from him since he travelled, according to French media reports.
Meng Hongwei, a former Chinese police officer and the country’s vice-minister for public security, was elected Interpol president in November 2016.
The story was first reported by Europe 1, which cited police sources.
UPDATED: Interpol commented: “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. The Secretary General is the Organization’s full time official responsible for the day to day running of INTERPOL.
“INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters will not comment further.”
Interpol is the world’s largest international police organization, with 192 member countries. Its General Secretariat is based in Lyon, France, supported by the Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, seven regional bureaus, and Special Representative offices at the African Union, the EU and the UN.
The election of Meng was met with disquiet in some quarters. An article in Foreign Policy for example claimed Meng’s ascension also aroused suspicion “because of China’s own record on blurring police work and politics — a pattern that some feared would carry over into Interpol’s work.”
In 2017, for example, after a Chinese billionaire based abroad threatened to reveal high-level corruption in his home country, Beijing rapidly requested and was granted an Interpol red notice against him — that is, an official request for his arrest and extradition issued by the intergovernmental organization that facilitates police cooperation among its 190 member countries.
“The timing gives reason to believe that China’s motive is purely political and that Interpol is in danger of becoming an extension of the increasingly long reach of the Chinese state,” wrote the publication’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahim.
Interpol is responsible for tackling cybercrime, amongst its other mandates.
“Most cybercrimes are transnational in nature, therefore INTERPOL is the natural partner for any law enforcement agency looking to investigate these crimes on a cooperative level. By working with private industry, INTERPOL is able to provide local law enforcement with focused cyber intelligence, derived from combining inputs on a global scale,” the organisations says.
The Interpol President’s apparent disappearance follows the disappearance of a high profile Chinese actress Fan BingBing who this week issued a grovelling apology for tax evasion and crimes against the state on her social media account.