A former Russian general, Alexander Prokupchuk, is in the running to take over Interpol, raising major fears amongst campaigners and security experts that the move could allow Putin to target his enemies around the globe.
On Wednesday delegates will vote for a new Interpol chief after the former president, Meng Hongwei, went missing in China, and duly ‘resigned’. Chinese authorities say he is being held on corruption charges.
The frontrunners for the post include Prokupchuk, a current vice president and head of bureau in Russia. British sources claim Prokupchuk is likely to win the vote in what would be a major coup for Russia and its expansionist agenda. It has been criticised repeatedly already for abusing Interpol’s ‘red notice’ system, seemingly using it to target the Kremlin’s enemies abroad. The major fear now is that this move would effectively bring Interpol under Putin’s control.
One such example of red notice misuse is against Bill Browder, the British financier who was barred from Russia and whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was beaten to death in a Russian prison after exposing enormous frauds among Russian officials. It was Browder who pushed the US Congress to bring in the Magnitsky Act, targeting Russian officials with sanctions. Russia duly issued red notices against Browder but without success – the requests have been denied for being so overtly political.
Not giving up, Russia has brought new charges against Browder including the notion that it was Browder himself who poisoned Magnitsky, as well as forming a criminal organisation to embezzle funds. The coincidental timing of the new charges was not lost on Browder, who said: “On the eve of Interpol deciding whether a Russian official should be president of Interpol, the Russian prosecutor’s office holds a huge press conference about me and how they will chase me down anywhere in the world. I really struck a nerve with the Magnitsky Act”.
Alexei Navalny, opposition leader, has also suggested a Russian taking over Interpol would do little to enhance the organisation’s propriety, claiming his own colleagues had been targeted by bogus warrants from Russian officials. He tweeted: “I don’t think that a president from Russia will help to reduce such violations”.