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French-German broadcaster ARTE has announced the upcoming release of a documentary on Interpol. With the coming of an American Secretary-General, Ronald Noble, at the head of Interpol in 2000, ARTE claims the police service made a 180-degree turn. It was Noble’s dream to create an “international super police.” In order to reach his goal, Noble cooperated with unlikely partners: multinationals like Philip Morris International and Sanofi, organisations suspected of corruption, like the FIFA and controversial states like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A German-French team of investigative journalists examined the sources of the new financial means and the tug of war between economic, political and sovereign interests, asking the question:

“Can a supranational organisation finance the task for which sovereignty was passed on to it with private funds, and still remain completely independent?

Until now, not many members of the press succeeded in looking behind the scenes at Interpol. According to ARTE, the international police force and its officers are surrounded by myths, but concrete knowledge is sparse. The organisation was founded more than 100 years ago, to improve cooperation between national police forces. In the trail of globalisation and its concomitant growth in criminal behaviour, the demands on the organisation, by now active in 190 countries, grew.

Interpol was criticised for accepting money from questionable sources, such as the donation of €50 million by the United Arab Emirates – which equalled the contributions by all other member states taken together – in March 2017. This leads ARTE to the question:

Does such a donation from one country not force the question of the independence of the receiving organisation? Which alliances is Interpol willing to enter into, in order to grow? Is it possible to finance the sovereign task delegated to an organisation with private money and not be made into an instrument? Is this the first step to a new world order, in which cooperation between police functionaries and international business is considered normal?

As one of the journalists working on the documentary, Mathieu Martiniere, said in an interview with Dutch Public Broadcaster NOS:

Raising of funds is not illegal, but Interpol makes itself vulnerable. The danger of conflict of interest is real. Companies have economic interests: they want to make money. And Interpol has a whole different interest: our safety.

Together with investigative journalist Robert Schmidt, Martiniere spent four years, investigating Interpol on three continents. They found that the organisation, whose member states pay around €54 million each year, accepted considerable sums from private sources. FIFA paid it €20 million, in exchange for Interpol combating match-fixing. The pharmaceutical industry paid €4.5 million for cooperation in the battle against illegal medicines. Philip Morris donated €15 million for a promise to take action against illegal trade in cigarettes.

The documentary offers a number of critics a chance to speak their minds. Michael Niemeier, the head of international cooperation for the German Federal police, is heard saying:

You have to be very careful that finances do not determine what is being researched. There has to be a project first and money has to be found to undertake it later.

Already in 2012, nine member states sent a letter of protest to Interpol, warning against conflicts of interest. This was after Interpol received $10 million from Qatar, promising help in securing the 2022 World Cup in that country. It also built a new office in Singapore, after that country donated $250 million.

Noble left his position at the end of 2014, and was replaced by the German Jürgen Stock. Stock promised more transparency and terminated some of the collaborations. Although Interpol still tries to raise external funds, the scale of cooperation with businesses is smaller, and according to Interpol, donations by the tabacco, arms, alcohol, sex, and gambling industries are refused. The donation by the United Arab Emirates of €50 million went through a separate entity, the Interpol Foundation, which was established in 2013. Interpol confirms that

One of the foundation’s objectives is to search for sponsors that could help finance our organisation.

The documentary is to be broadcast first on Tuesday 20 March at 20:10 CET, followed by a second broadcast on Friday 23 March at 9:35 CET. It will be made available online from 20 March (presumably after 20:10 CET) until 19 May.