Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei put on trial for bribery in China

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The former Interpol president Meng Hongwei confessed to accepting more than $2 million in bribes and expressed regret for his crime, a Chinese court said on Thursday.

The No. 1 Intermediate Court in the northeastern port city of Tianjin said Meng read a statement containing the confession at a hearing.

Elected president of the international police organisation in 2016, Meng disappeared into custody after traveling to China from France at the end of September. Interpol was not informed of Meng‘s detention and was forced to ask China about his whereabouts.

In a statement in early October, the Chinese authorities admitted they were holding Meng and China’s ministry of public security said that he was being investigated for accepting bribes.

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A confession assures a conviction but it was not immediately clear when a verdict and sentence would be handed down. Confessions, which are often televised, have become a hallmark of President Xi Jinping’s rule.

Admitting guilt and expressing regret can result in slightly lighter punishment, though China has been quick to hand out life sentences for corruption under a campaign run directly by the president, Xi Jinping.

Meng’s wife, Grace, has remained in France, where Meng was stationed for Lyon-based Interpol, and has accused Chinese authorities of creating a “fake case” against him for political reasons.

There are suspicions Meng had fallen out of favour with Xi, who has come down hard on corruption and perceived disloyalty in what observers say is calculated to strengthen party control while bringing down potential challengers to his authority.

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The Tianjin court said Meng had abused his positions, including as a vice minister of public security and maritime police chief, to take bribes.

Shown on television wearing a plain brown windbreaker and flanked by two bailiffs, Meng appeared older and grayer than during his time as one of the nation’s top law enforcement officers. He has already been fired from his positions and kicked out of the Communist Party.

While serving at Interpol, Meng retained his title as a vice minister of public security.

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