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Meng was last seen leaving for China from Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, southeast France, in late September, the source said.

"France is looking into the situation of the President of Interpol and is concerned about the threats his wife has received", the statement said, adding that a "suitable police mechanism" was put in place to guarantee her safety.

'I completely accept all the penalty decisions made according to law, after the investigation done by tax authorities.

Mr Meng is a Chinese national and former Communist Party official.

Interpol's defacto chief is its secretary general who is responsible for most of the operations.

The 64-year-old served as vice minister of Public Security in China, vice chairman of the national narcotics control commission and director of the National Counter-Terrorism Office for China.

Meng Hongwei, president of Interpol.

China yesterday remained silent over the disappearance of the head of Interpol, deepening the mystery over the worldwide police chief's fate after reports said he was detained for questioning on arrival in his homeland.

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Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed source as saying Meng had been taken for questioning as soon as he landed in China, but it also was not clear why.

Interpol said in a statement: "Interpol is aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of Interpol President Meng Hongwei". French police have told Reuters that there is an investigation going in France about his disappearance, what has been termed as a "worrying disappearance".

China's Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment and there was no mention of him in official media on Saturday. Calls and faxed questions to the foreign and public security ministries went unanswered. The language of Interpol's Saturday statement seeking "clarification" from Chinese authorities gives further impetus to these reports.

Previously, Interpol had said that reports about Meng's disappearance were "a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China". According to Interpol's website, in May he delivered a speech in Ireland in which he discussed the changing face of global crime and the need for Interpol to remain above political considerations.

His appointment caused concern among academics and human rights advocates, who feared he would abuse Interpol's powers to forcibly repatriate Chinese dissidents and fugitives.

However, his appointment was an alarming sign of China's ability to shape worldwide organisations, including those in which its authoritarian influence was extremely unsafe, she said.

But it does not have the power to send officers into countries to arrest individuals or issue arrest warrants.

China now has 44 outstanding red notices, mostly related to murder, intentional injury and drug smuggling, according to Interpol's web site.


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