Blow to Russia as South Korean named Interpol president

Kim Jong Yang Credit: Kang Kyung-kook/Newsis via AP

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang has been elected as Interpol’s next president, edging out a veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the US, Britain and other European nations.

The White House and its European partners had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the policing organisation, saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpol’s red notice system to go after political opponents.

Mr Prokopchuk is a general in the Russian Interior Ministry and serves as an Interpol vice president.

Mr Kim’s win means he secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai on Wednesday.

He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China.

Mr Kim, a police official in South Korea, was serving as interim president after Mr Meng was held in a wide anti-corruption sweep in China.

Most of Interpol’s 194 member countries attended the annual assembly this year, which was held in an opulent Dubai hotel along the Persian Gulf coast.

Based in the French city of Lyon, Interpol is best known for issuing red notices that identify a suspect pursued by another country, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.

Human rights groups raised the alarm two years ago when Interpol’s general assembly approved Mr Meng as president. Amnesty International criticised “China’s long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad”.

Two prominent Kremlin critics warned on Tuesday that electing Mr Prokopchuk — who has ties to President Vladimir Putin — would have undermined the international law enforcement agency and politicised police co-operation across borders.

Moscow accused critics of running a “campaign to discredit” Mr Prokopchuk, calling him a respected professional.

The White House came out on Tuesday against Mr Prokopchuk, with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying: “The Russian government abuses Interpol’s processes to harass its political opponents.” He said the US “strongly endorses” Mr Kim.