Ex-President of Interpol Is Sent to Prison for Bribery in China
BEIJING — A former senior Chinese police official who also served as president of Interpol was sentenced on Tuesday to 13 ½ years in prison for bribery, in a case that his wife has denounced as stemming from a political vendetta.
When the official, Meng Hongwei, was elected president of Interpol, the French-based international body that provides global coordination in fighting crime, in 2016, the appointment raised fears among rights groups that China would use the connection to abuse the organization’s powers.
On Tuesday, a court in Tianjin, a port city in northern China, found that Mr. Meng had taken bribes worth more than $2 million from 2005 to 2017, when he was rising in China’s domestic security apparatus. The judgment, and the lengthy prison sentence, followed a one-day trial in June last year.
An online report about the sentencing from China’s main state broadcaster, CCTV, said, “Meng Hongwei told the courtroom that he accepted the court’s judgment and would not appeal.”
The judges took competing factors into consideration, according to the report. On the one hand, Mr. Meng had “truthfully confessed to all the facts of the crimes,” it said.
On the other, the report said, the Chinese authorities have been unable to recover all the money that they say Mr. Meng took in return for business opportunities, promotions and other favors.
Chinese news coverage of Mr. Meng’s trial last year showed him as a humbled figure, gray-haired and overshadowed by two hulking guards.
His imprisonment is likely to be promoted by China’s state media as proof that President Xi Jinping remains committed to his anticorruption campaign, which has seen a number of powerful figures jailed.
Mr. Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, has rejected the allegations against her husband and, unusually for the spouse of a senior Chinese official, sought protection abroad. She has stayed in France since his detention.
Ms. Meng accompanied her husband to France when he became president of Interpol, a traditionally ceremonial post that he tried to turn into a position of real power, according to The Wall Street Journal. When Mr. Meng disappeared in China, his wife raised the alarm and later went public with accusations that he was the victim of Mr. Xi’s drive for power.
“I think the anticorruption campaign in China has already been damaged,” she told the British newspaper The Guardian. “It has become a way of attacking people who are your enemy.”
Ms. Meng did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the sentence, and neither did her lawyer.
Before his downfall, Mr. Meng, 66, had been one of China’s most prominent police officials. As Interpol’s president, he was part of Mr. Xi’s effort to expand Beijing’s influence. Mr. Meng served concurrently as a vice minister of public security; before that, he oversaw the Chinese Coast Guard and led a counterterrorism office.
After taking power as head of the Communist Party in 2012, Mr. Xi started an increasingly fierce campaign against official corruption and disloyalty, and the Chinese domestic security service was a focus of that drive.
Zhou Yongkang, once the seemingly untouchable head of the Communist Party’s law-and-order apparatus, was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison for corruption. Li Dongsheng, who like Mr. Meng was a vice minister of public security, was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison for taking bribes.
For a while, Mr. Meng had appeared to enjoy Mr. Xi’s confidence. In 2017, Mr. Xi gave the opening address at an Interpol meeting in Beijing presided over by Mr. Meng, declaring that “China is willing to share its experience in security governance with every country in the world.”
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.
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