French police end investigation into Interpol disappearance

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In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov.8, 2018 people walk on the Interpol logo at the international police agency headquarters in Lyon, central France. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov.8, 2018 people walk on the Interpol logo at the international police agency headquarters in Lyon, central France. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Paris (AP) — French authorities say they have closed an investigation into the disappearance and subsequent detention in China of the former president of Interpol, and found no evidence to support his wife’s claim that she got a threatening call in Chinese after he was picked up.

Grace Meng, the wife of Meng Hongwei, detailed the threatening call in an Associated Press interview in October. She said the caller told her to only listen but not to speak and threatened: “We’ve come in two work teams, two work teams just for you.”

An official close to the French investigation said Wednesday that police in the city of Lyon, where Interpol is headquartered, closed their probe into the call and Meng’s detention having found no evidence that a crime was committed in France. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meng Hongwei — who was China’s vice minister of public security while also leading Interpol — was detained while on a trip to China in September. A long-time Communist Party insider with decades of experience in China’s sprawling security apparatus, the 64-year-old is the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping purge against allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials under President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian administration.

Chinese authorities have said Meng is being lawfully investigated for taking bribes and other crimes. His wife says the bribery accusation is just an excuse for a lengthy detention and that he is being persecuted for political reasons. On Sept. 25, he sent a text message to her from China of an emoji of a knife — suggesting to her he was in danger.

Grace Meng said the man whose nighttime call frightened her in early October gave just one clue about his identity: that he used to work for Meng, suggesting the man was part of China’s security apparatus. He also said he knew where she was.

French police subsequently investigated the call but determined there was no evidence of a threat or that a crime was committed, the official close to the probe said.

Reached Wednesday by telephone, Grace Meng told the AP that she wasn’t aware of the investigation’s closure. She said the French police detail assigned to protect her and her two boys hasn’t been withdrawn.