A former KGB agent narrowly lost the chance to lead Interpol. Alexander Prokopchuk, who currently serves as an Interpol vice president and a General in the Russian interior ministry, was slated to win the election for the new Interpol chief. The seat had been empty since the abduction and arrest of the previous chief, Meng Hongwei, by the Chinese authorities.

A last-minute effort, mainly led by the United States and the United Kingdom, frustrated Prokopchuk’s candidacy and resulted in the election of South Korean Kim Jong-yang as president. Both western countries were concerned that the election of a senior Russian government official would enable Russian President Vladimir Putin to pursue political rivals more easily. Moreover, there were concerns that with a Russian at the helm of the premier international law enforcement organisation, it would be harder to prosecute criminals with ties to the Russian government.

Hours before the vote, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “we encourage all nations and organisations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that.”

But the Anglo-American initiative wasn’t the only one. The European Union (EU) was equally concerned by the predictions and cautioned that in the event of Prokopchuk’s election “democratic and free countries may need to develop a parallel organisation.” Lithuania, additionally, threatened to leave the organisation if the Russian official was elected.

Prokopchuk was born in Ukraine in 1961. After university, he entered the dark world of the Russian intelligence services. His linguistic (he speaks five languages) and interpersonal skills enabled him to quickly rise up the ladder.

Interpol is an international organisation that supports and enhances global law enforcement cooperation. Headquartered in Lyon, France, the organisation is comprised of 192 country members.

If Prokopchuk had been elected, it wouldn’t have been the first time that an individual with a questionable history became Interpol president. Meng, who is still under custody by the Chinese authorities, had previously served as China’s deputy minister of public security, responsible, among others, for the Chinese secret police, a unit that conducts domestic counterintelligence, foreign intelligence gathering, and also provides security to senior Communist Party members and government officials.

According to a Russian government representative Irina Volk, Prokopchuk will continue to serve as an Interpol vice president. “As before, his work will focus on strengthening the position of Interpol in the international police community and increasing the efficiency of the organisation’s work,” she added.