China to prosecute 'lavish spending' former Interpol chief

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will prosecute former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei for graft after an investigation found he spent “lavish” amounts of state funds, abused his power and refused to follow Communist Party decisions, its anti-corruption watchdog said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

Interpol, the global police coordination agency based in France, last October said Meng had resigned as its president, days after his wife reported him missing after he traveled back to his home country.

The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Meng Hongwei was suspected of taking bribes and causing serious harm to the party’s image and state’s interests, adding he should be severely dealt with.

The watchdog issued its statement after Chinese President Xi Jinping returned from a state visit to France, where Emmanuel Macron raised the issue of human rights in China and certain specific cases, a French presidency official said.

The anti-graft body said Meng Hongwei had “refused to enact decisions of the party center” and abused his power for private gain. He “wantonly and lavishly spent state funds to satisfy his family’s luxurious lifestyle”, it said.

Meng also used his position to help his wife get a job and illegally took a “huge amount of possessions” from other people in exchange for help with promotions and job moves and “company operations”, the statement said, without giving details.

Meng has been expelled from the party and his case been handed to legal authorities for prosecution, the statement said.

It has not been possible to reach Meng for comment since he was detained, and unclear if he has been allowed a lawyer.

Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, told French television on Sunday that she had written to Macron ahead of Xi’s trip seeking his help protecting their “fundamental human rights”.

Her lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment on the anti-corruption body’s allegations. France’s interior and justice ministries did not respond to Reuters’ questions.

Meng is certain to be found guilty when his case eventually comes to trial as the courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge its accusations.

Meng, who was also a deputy Chinese public security minister, became president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016 as China widened its bid to secure leadership posts in international organizations.

His appointment prompted concern at the time from rights groups that Beijing might try to leverage his position to pursue dissidents abroad.

Under Xi, China has pursued a sweeping crackdown on official corruption.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Richard Lough and Marine Pennetier in Paris and Catherine Lagrange in Lyon; Editing by Robert Birsel, Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean