Interpol Picks Korean as New President in Snap Election, Crushing Russian Hopes

(Bloomberg) — Interpol delegates elected South Korean Kim Jong Yang as the new president of the global policing body after international criticism of the possibility that rival Russian candidate Aleksander Prokopchuk might get the job.

Kim was selected Wednesday morning in a snap election organized at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai following the arrest in China of former president Meng Hongwei last month. Interpol didn’t disclose on its website the margin of victory for the South Korean in the election, which was organized on a one country-one vote basis.

The election had become deeply political in recent days as U.S. and other western countries warned that if elected, Prokopchuk, as a high-ranking police official in Russia, could abuse Interpol protocols to harass political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yukos Oil Co. founder and Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in a Russian prison, said on Tuesday that Prokopchuk, also head of Interpol in Russia, had violated the agency’s rules by appealing to several nations to issue arrest warrants for him even after the Russian petitions had been rejected.

Russian officials in turn immediately accused the U.S. of interference in a democratic process to ensure Prokopchuk did not get the job.

“The U.S. crudely interfered in the elections of the president of this international organization,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, a senator in the Russian parliament and a general in the FSB domestic security service, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency after the vote. “There was pressure put on the member countries.”

The president of Interpol is the head of the executive committee that oversees the global policing body. The Lyon-based agency is run by Secretary General Juergen Stock. Meng had been China’s deputy minister of public security and after being elected as the head of the global policing agency in November 2016, was expected to remain president until his term expired in 2020 before his sudden arrest.

The choice of Kim was a step in the right direction for Interpol to try to repair some of the damage to its reputation for the way it handled Meng’s case, said Christopher David, a lawyer and author of “A Practical Guide to Interpol and Red Notices.”

He said it’s a “solid, uncontroversial choice, at a time when the global police organization is facing intense scrutiny over its alleged manipulation by authoritarian regimes and condemnation of its handling of the ‘resignation’” of Meng.

Officials from Ukraine, who have been at odds with their neighbor since the annexation by Russian forces of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, hailed the election result.

“The representative of South Korea has been elected as a President of Interpol!!!!! The Russian nominee has been rejected,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov commented on Twitter. “This battle has been won. Thanks all!! Glory to Ukraine!”

(Add’s lawyer’s comment in eighth paragraph.)

–With assistance from Jake Rudnitsky, Volodymyr Verbyany and Gregory L. White.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hugo Miller in Geneva at hugomiller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Peter Chapman, Torrey Clark

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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