China has confirmed it is holding the missing head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei. Beijing said he was under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption body for unspecified breaches of the law.
Mr Meng, also a vice-minister of public security in China, was reported missing after travelling from the city of Lyon in France, where Interpol is based, to China on 25 September.
Later, Interpol said it had received his resignation from the presidency on Sunday with immediate effect.
On Monday, after days of speculation about Mr Meng’s whereabouts, China’s National Supervision Commission said in a statement that he was under investigation.
The commission handles corruption cases involving public servants.
Mr Meng is the latest high-profile disappearance in China, where a number of top government officials, billionaires and even an A-list celebrity have vanished in recent months.
Last week, actress Fan Bingbing, who disappeared in China in July, emerged with a public apology and a fine of 883 million yuan ($129m; £98.9m) for tax evasion and other offences.
What has Interpol said?
In a statement on Twitter, it said it had received the resignation with immediate effect. Under its terms it has appointed senior vice-president Kim Jong-yang of South Korea as acting president.
A new president will be elected for the remaining two years of Mr Meng’s mandate at the general assembly in Dubai next month.
What did Mr Meng’s wife say about his disappearance?
Grace Meng, speaking shortly before China’s confirmation of the detention, told journalists she thought he was in danger.
She issued an emotional plea for international help to find her husband.
How will this impact China’s image?
The investigation into Mr Meng has raised some concern that international institutions will be reluctant to appoint Chinese officials to high positions – something Beijing has pushed for in recent years.
Chinese nationals hold top positions at several global institutions including the UN, IMF, World Bank and Unesco.
But Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit in Beijing said while he believes the current case is not likely to affect future appointments, it does impact China’s image on the international stage.
“There’s obviously going to be some bad publicity around this and it’s not like China doesn’t care about this,” he said.
“But whatever they want Mr Meng for has in this case trumped their concern for international public opinion.”
Who is Meng Hongwei?
He was elected Interpol president in November 2016, the first Chinese to take up the post, and was scheduled to serve until 2020.
He headed the organisation’s Executive Committee, which provides overall guidance and direction.
Mr Meng has 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing in China, notably in the fields of drugs, counter-terrorism and border control.
After his election human rights groups expressed concern that the move could help China pursue political dissidents who have fled the country.