Top SA cop shunted out of Interpol race ‘to appease Russians’
Veteran taken off list for agency presidency to make way for Russian contender in bid to smooth relations, sources say
A veteran SA cop running for the Interpol presidency had his nomination withdrawn at the 11th hour to allow a controversial Russian candidate a clear run at the title.
Brigadier Anbuen Naidoo, a long-serving delegate attached to the global policing body, was forced to bow out of the presidential race this week.
Sources say the decision was prompted to strengthen diplomatic ties between Russia and SA, which had soured after SA withdrew its nuclear energy agreement with the Russians.
Times Select can reveal that Naidoo’s nomination, put forth glowingly by police commissioner Khehla Sitole, was pulled back on the morning the 87th General Assembly in Dubai was set to start – at the same time minister of international relations Lindiwe Sisulu arrived in Moscow to strengthen diplomatic ties and relations.
Sitole’s own nomination brief, sent to both the secretary-general of Interpol and SA’s own department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco), indicated strong support for Naidoo’s presidential aspirations.
In the letters, obtained by Times Select, Sitole extols the experience and virtues of the career policeman.
Less than a week later, Naidoo’s application for the presidential seat was withdrawn by the SA delegation.
Naidoo himself, responding to questions about bowing out of the presidential race, said the move had been “in support of Russia”.
He would not comment further.
Key police sources confirmed that Naidoo’s removal from contention was a move to clear a path for Russian Alexander Prokopchuk to command the highest office of the international policing structure.
Repeated efforts to contact Dirco’s Ndivhuwo Mabaya were unsuccessful.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said last week he could not comment because the general assembly was under way, and did not respond after the assembly had ended.
Prokopchuk’s ascension would have been a significant coup for Moscow, the target of scathing international criticism for the alleged abuse of the agency’s red notices by having the movement of political opponents flagged.
Red notices allow the passport and other travel documents of an individual to be flagged so their cross-border movements can be monitored and halted.
Despite the diplomatic kowtowing, Prokopchuk was bested by the US-backed South Korean candidate Kim Jong-yang, who was elected on Wednesday.
Interpol plays a vital role in combating transnational crimes such as illicit financial flows and terror activity, and facilitating co-operation between police services across the globe.
Jasmine Opperman, the Africa director for the Terrorism‚ Research and Analysis Consortium, said the withdrawal of Naidoo’s application was likely a compromise to appease SA’s Brics partner.
“We will stand back so that Russia can take the lead. We have to look at the bigger context and identify that Russia is by far superior in its global influence. If one looks at the Middle East and Africa, Moscow’s reach extends way beyond that of Washington.”
Opperman said there had been a lot for Russia to gain.
“This is a typical strategy to gain position in a credible institution. Interpol has a strict mandate and rules for how it operates so the sway of one person would be limited.
“Rest assured that it would have been used to further their own agenda in redirecting the priorities of investigations.”
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the move likely had further-reaching implications between the two countries.
“Usually a country would have done their own assessments on support levels and South Africa probably realised their chances of winning were low. What they normally do is withdraw the candidate and thereby allow a space to bargain. We did this for you, now you do this for us in the case of Russia,” he said.