An arsonist in charge of a fire brigade? A paedophile running an orphanage? A kleptomaniac managing a jewellery shop?
This may be preposterous conjecture. But these days reality outpaces fantasy by a wide margin.
To wit, Alexander Prokopchuk of Russia’s Interior Ministry is about to become president of Interpol.
Interpol boasts 192 countries as members, which by my calculations makes all of them. Its function is to pursue criminals who choose to widen their reach beyond one country, either to target pastures new or else to seek refuge.
When Interpol decides that a fugitive has a case to answer in his home country, it issues a ‘red notice’, which is a sort of arrest warrant that the host country may or may not wish to execute. Yet even in the absence of a red notice, the host country may honour a warrant issued by another Interpol member.
The organisation thus has a lot of power, which may be used, but as easily misused or abused. That’s why the selection of a president becomes a sensitive task, to be approached with much caution.
One must observe with some chagrin that Interpol bosses haven’t always been blessed with the high moral probity the post requires.
Thus from 1940 to 1942 that august organisation was led by SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, who was out to eliminate not so much all crime as all Jews.
When his tenure was prematurely ended by a British grenade, Interpol was taken over by SS Gruppenführer Artur Nebe, whose approach to the Final Solution was hands on. As head of Einsatzgruppe B in Byelorussia, Nebe had supervised the murder of 45,000 in just two months of 1941.
He was still regarded as too lightweight for the post, and in 1943 the presidency of Interpol passed over to Gruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Heydrich’s successor as head of the SD. Three years later this law enforcer was hanged at Nuremberg.
Fast-forward some 70 years, and the post of Interpol president is now vacant. Meng Hongwei, the latest holder, disappeared after being charged with bribery in his native China and is assumed to have resigned in absentia.
This isn’t to say that Gen. Prokopchuk’s career was as illustrious as Messrs Heydrich’s, Nebe’s, Kaltenbrunner’s or even Meng’s. It wasn’t. But he’s as unsuitable for the post as they were.
Gen. Prokopchuk began his career as part of the komsomol (Young Communist League) nomenklatura. The YCL was nominally under the Party aegis, but in reality it served as a hatchery of cadres for Soviet security services.
(The same system existed in Soviet satellites, which raises interesting questions about Angie Merkel, who held a nomenklatura YCL position in Leipzig at the same time a Major Putin was the KGB resident in Dresden, just 90 miles away. Alas, such interesting questions are never answered nor indeed asked, and I have to guess why the two are so pally, addressing each other by their first names and the familiar du pronoun.)
Three YCL apparatchiks, Shelepin, Semitchasny and Andropov, became KGB bosses, and many others also filled the offices of that sinister organisation or the Interior Ministry (MVD).
The KGB and the MVD always were communicating vessels, with personnel freely flowing from one to the other. Sometimes the KGB was institutionally part of the MVD, sometimes the other way around, and sometimes they were nominally separate. Yet, structural gerrymandering aside, Prokopchuk and Putin have much mutual affinity.
That any Russian official occupying an international post will do Putin’s bidding is axiomatic. Thus Prokopchuk’s presidency will effectively turn Interpol into an aspect of Russia’s hybrid war on the West.
The potential of using Interpol for nefarious purposes has been realised many times, not least, though not only, by Russia. This can be done by protecting those fugitives whom tyrannies wish to protect and especially by pursuing those whom tyrannies wish to pursue.
If the host country decides that the fugitive is being pursued for political reasons, the red notice may be ignored or even removed. Yet Interpol has been known to ignore political motives, and wicked regimes to disguise them.
Venezuela has form in pulling that confidence trick, along with Iran, Cambodia, Turkey, the Arab Emirates – and of course Russia, which has issued red notices on several dissidents and even managed to get Bill ‘Magnitsky’ Browder detained in Spain.
Putin’s men brazenly refuse to adopt even a thin veneer of political disinterest in hunting enemies of the regime and of the Botox Boy personally. In fact, their effrontery is so blatant that some US senators have demanded that Russia be banned from issuing red notices altogether.
Russia is at the moment the biggest international criminal. Not only has it elevated money laundering to its principal economic activity, but it also commits acts of terrorism all over the world, using even chemical and nuclear weapons.
As a backdrop to that, the Russians are waging a full-blown cyber war against the West, including inter alia the credible threat of sabotaging the UK’s grid, as they already sabotaged the NHS a couple of years ago.
Considering that Western countries contribute 74 per cent of Interpol’s budget, they could easily stop Putin’s accomplice from heading the organisation whose charter is to stop exactly the kind of crimes that are Russia’s stock in trade.
But I doubt they will. We in the West no longer have the testicular fortitude to face up to tyrants, even those who threaten us directly. Where there is no will, there is no way, if you’ll pardon the paraphrase.
P.S. Even conservative papers are now branding as extremists those who wish to regain Britain’s sovereignty. I’m surprised they haven’t yet coined the portmanteau neologism ‘Brextremists’. Missing a trick there, chaps.