Interpol’s president Meng Hongwei has been reported missing after travelling to his native China last week, French police said on Friday.
Meng’s wife contacted police in Lyon, the French city where the international police cooperation agency has its headquarters, after not hearing from him since his departure on September 29, police sources said.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed source as saying Meng, 64, was under investigation in China and had been taken away for questioning as soon as he landed there.
Interpol said it was aware of reports in connection with Meng’s “alleged disappearance”.
“This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China,” the agency said in a statement.
French police sources said their investigation was into what is termed in France a “worrying disappearance”.
Interpol’s main function is to provide a mechanism for police forces in different countries to notify each other of wanted suspects.
Meng has almost 40 years’ experience in criminal justice and policing, and has overseen matters related to legal institutions, narcotics control and counter-terrorism, according to Interpol’s website.
Meng is listed on the website of China’s Ministry of Public Security as a vice-minister, but lost his seat on its key Communist Party Committee in April, the South China Morning Post said.
He was named president of Interpol in 2016. Rights groups expressed concern at the time that Beijing might try to use Meng’s position at the body to go after dissidents abroad.
Beijing has in the past pressed other countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes including corruption and terrorism.
China’s Ministry of Public Security could not be reached immediately for comment.
Diplomats say the role of Interpol president is largely ceremonial, with day-to-day work carried out by its secretary general Juergen Stock and his staff.
In July last year, Meng gave a speech on the importance of cracking down on cybercrime which observers said might reflect China’s views on the issue.
Police sources said Meng’s wife and children remained in Lyon.