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China says Interpol ex-president confesses to bribe taking

In this July 4, 2017 file photo, then Interpol President Meng Hongwei delivers his opening address at the Interpol World Congress, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

BEIJING (AP) -- Former Interpol President Meng Hongwei confessed to accepting more than $2 million in bribes and expressed regret for his crime, a Chinese court said Thursday.

The No. 1 Intermediate Court in the northeastern port city of Tianjin said Meng read a statement containing the confession at a hearing.

That move assures a conviction, although it isn't immediately clear when a verdict and sentence would be handed down. Admitting guilt and expressing regret can result in slightly lighter punishment, although China has been quick to hand out life sentences as it cracks down on corruption and political disloyalty under a campaign run directly by the president and head of the ruling Communist Party, Xi Jinping.

Elected president of the international police organization in 2016, Meng disappeared into custody after traveling to China from France at the end of September. Interpol was not informed of Meng's detention and was forced to ask China about his whereabouts.

The Tianjin court said Meng had abused his positions, including as a vice minister of public security and maritime police chief, to curry favor for others in return for bribes.

Shown on television wearing a plain brown windbreaker and flanked by two bailiffs, Meng appeared older and grayer than during his time as one of the nation's top law enforcement officers. He has already been fired from his positions and kicked out of the Communist Party.

While serving at Interpol, Meng retained his title as a vice minister of public security.

There are suspicions he had fallen out of political favor with Xi, who has come down hard on corruption and perceived disloyalty in what observers say is calculated to strengthen party control while bringing down potential challengers to his authority.

Meng's wife, Grace, has remained in France, where Meng was stationed for Lyon-based Interpol, and has accused Chinese authorities of creating a "fake case" against him for political reasons.

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