The politics of Interpol
Hello, welcome to weld weekly with me. And then Sheni in the show this week. We'll be looking at INTERPOL the global police body the has elected its new chief you should eat. So rather, discreet affair, but the international institution has been in the spotlight and the subject of much conservancy in the past week after his president rather his former president Mang Homeway vanished after landing in China. It's appeared that he had been detained by Chinese authorities on suspected corruption and that yawn based institution was quite passive about it it accepted his resignation without doing much fuss about it. And then it appeared that Russian INTERPOL VP Alexander Poku cook was the front runner for replacing him which also caused a bit of stuff. Joining me in the line to discuss all of this from Moscow is Henry Foy the FTC's Moscow bureau chief and on the line from Brussels, Mike appeal all diplomatic editor, Michael. Everybody that Alexander poke up Chook was going to be elected. But that didn't happen. Can you explain why this hasn't been the case in why it caused such STA it was a story? And so then that broke quite late in into all had his general assembly Dubai where this was coming up, and it was really just in the days before that attention focused on the fact that there were there were really only two candidates who had a chance the Russian nominee a- as you say and Kim Jong who is another also vice president of of INTERPOL from South Korea and really came to a head twenty four hours before the vote when suddenly western countries led by a US and the UK amounted very explicit campaign to get Mr Kim, the South Korean candidate elected into towards the Russian candidate the Russians responded by saying that this was an unwarranted attempt intervene in the election. So it all go pretty bitter and turned into a kind of proxy for for much bigger. Geopolitical. Struggles. And in the end, Mr Kim this Korean candidate came out triumphant. I think that, you know, be interesting questions as go back and look at exactly why that happened. But there was clearly lobbying an quite intense lobbying going on in the hours and days before the vote. How do you explain that? There was such a backlash. Why people were worried all of a sudden that a Russian executive would take over the presidency of this institution. Well, the point about INTERPOL is that the candidates are standing as nominees over governments and what Mr. Procup jokes candidacy of from Russia really brought to a head was a much bigger battle over the soul of INTERPOL. If you liked there's a constituency of critics, which includes some in western governments, but also include rights groups, and others who say that the global please body is being manipulated by authoritarian states, including Russia in other words, those states have worked out that it's a very. Useful tool because it's a global hub for information exchange in so countries can fly to have arrest warrants issued by so-called red notices or they can go even more directly and send out so called diffusion orders directly to INTERPOL members to ask for he pool. They want to tug it to be arrested. And obviously, this has many legitimate uses and nobody disagrees that INTERPOL plays a very important role in breaking up, the drugs networks, paedophile networks and so forth. But what the critics say is that it is also open to this kind of political abuse. And that the number of these requests interaction has soared over the next few years, some of the Russian dissidents were caught in INTERPOL controversy vite, can you give us a few examples of what happened to them? Well, the most high profile case is probably that of Bill Browder who is a financier who has become a leading critic of the Kremlin. After Sergei Mike meets ski accountant was beaten to death in a Russian jail in two thousand nine. This case Moscow has said this to Browder is wanted for questioning on suspicion of involvement in tax evasion and added new charges in the run-up to this into vote. Mr. Browder says that these are completely trumped up this persecution of in political persecution. And indeed he was briefly arrested in may and Spain Bill Browder when he was visiting actually to see the top Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor on the morning of the meeting Spanish police officers came to his tell to arrest him. They suggested that this was because into Paul request into Paul said that Mr. Bradley was not wanted in it system. So it appears that what might have happened is that there was a previous Russian request which had been cancelled by INTERPOL. But that it was still held on. The database of some member countries including Spain, and Mr. Browder says this is an example of why the system doesn't really work in the once a country has put something out even if it is deemed by INTERPOL to be political pursuits Nefer, not valid. It's very difficult to raise that request from the databases of the police forces all INTERPOL member countries, which now number one hundred ninety four so almost every country in the world. We how has this whole fair been perceived in Moscow, and why do that matters much from us not take takeover to tech the presidency of this institution leading up to the vote. The Russia was trying to down play the west criticism and saying that it was committee unwarranted yesterday. The Kremlin said that it was unfortunate that that kind of had triumphed in the election that they would continue to work in as I'd into pollen. They sort of important organization today, the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, whereas Carver stepped up the responsibility. She's she called it an unprecedented disinformation campaign of precious launder an anti-russian frenzy by the US in principle against Russia to try to lobby other countries. She's call it a gross interference in the internal affairs of independent international organization, which positioned itself as politicized. And I think Russia is sort of feeling a little bit hurt by this in the last few days. Michael said, the US in particular. Mike Pompeo's active. State came out and declared his support for the South Korean candidate, which is not standard procedure for countries to endorse other candidates like that this plays into a much bigger story that which is about Russian perception of self in world affairs. They see themselves still as a major global player and a country that should be allowed to throws way to run an organization such as into we've seen the way that they responded to Trump's decision to withdraw from the treaty in much the same way Russia being a little upset ego bruise that other countries don't see it anymore as a major player don't trust it. If you like to handle Asian such as INTERPOL, and Moscow has also criticized the western countries for abusing the institution. Right. They've criticized the role of the UK in chasing after the two Russian suspect in the poisoning attempt in the UK. That's correct. I mean as Michael was saying there's been a to control over these red notices and the idea that Russia in particular rusher over the last decade, but increasingly over the last five years or so. Mr. Procacci as the head of Russia's INTERPOL office stepping up this campaign of does is to try to put pressure on Russian dissidents, people that the Kremlin considered to be enemies of the states, and in response to the western criticism of them Moscow said well, you guys do it too. You're going after people in our country, and you're using INTERPOL in a political way to try to reach your ends. I mean, this is probably a struggle. It's going to continue way pasta selection. This will not be the end of it. How into Paul restructures itself or looks into these retinal disease, and how countries can abuse use the system, I think is is a much deeper question. And I think in many ways, this this election has opened a little little bit on how this all works. Exactly. So I mean, this New South Korean President Kim Jong, and we know a little bit more about him. And Michael are going to be the challenges is going to be facing. I mean, presumably the whole credibility of situation is is at stake. Now, I think that's right. And he's upset. Lutely right to say that the election is really a microcosm of of a much bigger challenge. Facing into bowl. And it's always been based on the idea of good faith cooperation between nations which still stands in cases. For example, earlier this year where Russia cooperated with Belgium to get the alleged leader of epic drugs cartel extradited to Moscow, and you know, that was an example of cooperation in legitimate criminal case. But clearly there is this massive political dimension. It's fed by other geopolitical rivalries between Russia and western countries and INTERPOL needs to work out. How he's going to handle that. I mean, they're responsive are is will we are forbidden by constitution to politicize anything that we do which in the narrow sense is true. But of course, it's probably not enough even this gravity of what's going on. And of course, as you mentioned in your intro. There's also the mysterious case of why this election was necessary tool, which was that the previous Chinese president had disappeared on the trip to. China and the Chinese authorities withdrew his into Pola credits and said that he was under investigation for corruption since when nothing has really been heard about his case. So again that also highlighted some of these concerns there's also a question about a lot of lawyers and others say about the transparency and nimble -ness of Interpol's procedures and a very good example of that is so called commission for control of Interpol's files, which is this quiz. I independent body which basically people have complaints about a red notice that they think has been issued wrongly against the more. They think INTERPOL holds inaccurate data the way they challenged that is by going through this commission. But this commission lawyer say is pretty slow in the way that it works. Indeed. If you look at the website says that in order to bring a challenge this commission, you have to do it by post to Leon which is where INTERPOL is based. And it seems on the face of it quite surprising that in twenty eight teen the requirement is to deliver. For the challenge by post, particularly when some of these events taking place in real time that people that arrest warrants could be enacted within hours, either by national law enforcement authorities who know that someone is in that country or indeed if that person is traveling whenever they cross the border. So in other words, the kind of pursuit of suspects that INTERPOL can help with often in real time. And yet the processes just don't see the the oversight and the checks and balances just don't seem designed to cope with that into Paul says it started some reforms continue to do. So it insisted addressing this. And I think that will be the big test. Now, people will be looking at going forward a real willingness to reform into pull from its members away. It's it's sued them. All right. You have a pretty loose and far reaching one is Asian. He knew that can help them chase. Whether they think is criminal and escaped the country. I think that's a very interesting point that you know, rather, let the United Nations. You have an organization in which all will almost all of the world's countries members. They're clearly going to be all kinds of frictions and disputes and factions and interests and so forth. And I think that what into poll needs to do and its members in their own interests is to perhaps try to separate out a bit and treat us to almost discreet questions will number one those the political disputes that we've talked about, and let's put those to one side moment. But then let's make sure that because of these political disputes, we don't destroy the very valuable legitimate law enforcement cooperation, everyone on all sides agrees that INTERPOL helps with and you know, it will be a terrible indictment. If the results of these disputes kind of pulling into Pol Pot was drug dealers and pedophiles and other criminals were more able to get away with that crimes. Well, that's really well summed up I guess the basic question is really can this institution work at. A time of rising geopolitical tensions. Thank you so much Michael and Henry, and that's it for this week till next week goodbye.