France grants asylum to wife of former Interpol chief charged in China

PARIS (Reuters) - France has granted asylum to the wife of a former head of the international police cooperation agency Interpol, after he was charged in his native China with corruption, the wife’s lawyer 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. Picture taken May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

Grace Meng first reported in October that her husband Meng Hongwei had gone missing after travelling back to China from their home in France where the organisation is based. Days later, Interpol said he had resigned as its president.

Chinese prosecutors this month filed formal charges against him, accusing him of abuse of power and taking bribes.

Grace Meng’s lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said she had applied for asylum in France and her application was approved. The French Foreign Ministry did not comment on the outcome of the case but said the decision was made by an independent body and complied with French and international law.

In March, China’s ruling Communist Party said its own investigation into Meng found he spent lavish amounts of state funds, abused his power and refused to follow party decisions.

His wife has dismissed the allegations and said his arrest was politically motivated.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was unaware of the specifics of the situation regarding Meng’s wife, but that her husband’s case was a normal one not connected to “political factors”.

“I can tell you that Meng Hongwei is suspected of taking bribes,” Geng told a daily news briefing. If Meng’s wife had sought asylum in France then it was “completely an abuse of France’s legal procedures”, he added.

“Good political mutual trust is the basis for the healthy and stable development of Sino-French relations. We hope that in this case, both China and France can jointly handle it properly according to the law on the basis of good cooperation.”

Meng Hongwei became president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016 as China widened its bid to secure leadership posts in international organisations.

His appointment prompted concern at the time from rights groups that China might try to leverage his position to pursue dissidents abroad. Under President Xi Jinping, China has pursued a sweeping crackdown on official corruption.

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Catherine Evans and Peter Graff