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French police have opened an investigation into the reported disappearance last month of Meng Hongwei, the Chinese head of the international police organization Interpol, sources close to the inquiry told European news outlets on Friday. Meng was last seen leaving for China from Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, southeast France, in late September, the source said. His wife reported him missing. Interpol's website notes that Meng previously served as Vice Minister of Public Security in his native China. Interpol would not immediately confirm that its leader was missing when contacted by CBS News on Friday, but later released a statement saying the whereabouts of its leader was a "matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China." French police said the case was being handled by the public prosecutor in Lyon, but there was no immediate response at that office. An official at the global police organization told The Associated Press that Meng did leave France and arrive in China at the end of September, and that there had been no news of him since. News of Meng's apparent disappearance comes on the heels of an announcement by Chinese officials that Hollywood star Fan Bingbing, who also vanished without a trace several months ago, has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in alleged back taxes and penalties. The announcement of the fines this week by Communist Party officials shed no light on her current whereabouts.
Meng has held several senior positions in China including vice minister of public security. He was named president of Interpol in 2016. Rights groups expressed concern at the time that Beijing might try to use Meng's position at the body to go after dissidents abroad. Beijing has tried for many years to enlist the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes including corruption and terrorism. Reuters was not immediately able to reach China's Ministry of Public Security for comment.