Ex-Interpol chief pleads guilty to corruption: China state media

Meng Hongwei admits to taking $2.1m in bribes, but some argue that his case is politically motivated.

    Meng is among a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign [File: Xinhua via AP]
    Meng is among a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign [File: Xinhua via AP]

    Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei has pleaded guilty to charges of accepting bribes, Chinese state media reported.

    Meng - a Chinese citizen - has been under investigation since October 2018. He is accused of taking 14.5 million yuan ($2.1m) in unlawful payments between 2005 and 2017, using his status and positions, including as vice minister of public security and Marine Police Chief to accumulate the money.

    He reportedly admitted his guilt during a court hearing on Thursday in the northern city of Tianjin in China, according to the People's Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee. 

    Interpol, the global police coordination agency based in France, said last October that Meng had resigned as president, days after his wife Grace Meng reported him missing after he travelled back to China.  

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    He was later accused of accepting bribes and expelled from the Communist Party, with China's Public Security Ministry saying in March that Meng's "poisonous influence" had to be "thoroughly eliminated". 

    It was not clear who Meng's lawyer was and news agencies have been unable to reach them or any legal representative for comment.

    Chinese courts are tightly-controlled by the Communist Party and Meng is almost certain to be found guilty, Reuters news agency said. 

    The court will announce its verdict at a "select date or time," a statement from the court said, without specifying further. 

    Fall from grace

    Meng is among a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, which critics say has served as a way to remove the leader's political enemies.

    More than one million officials have been punished so far during Xi's six-year tenure. He has vowed to target both "tigers" and "flies", a reference to elite officials and lower-level bureaucrats. 

    As vice security minister, Meng oversaw as number of sensitive portfolios, including the country's counterterrorism division, and he was in charge of the response to violence in China's fractious northwestern region of Xinjiang.

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    During his time as vice security minister, the public security bureau arrested and interrogated a number of prominent Chinese dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested in 2008 and died of liver cancer in 2017 while still in custody.

    Meng's appointment at Interpol raised eyebrows, with human rights groups concerned that Beijing would use the organisation to round up Chinese dissidents overseas. Meng had been expected to serve a four-year term, ending in 2020.

    Grace Meng, who has been granted political asylum in France along with the couple's two children, has said the charges against him are politically motivated.

    In interviews with French media, she has said she fears for her life and was afraid she and her children would be the targets of kidnapping attempts. 

    SOURCE: News agencies