What Exactly is INTERPOL?

October 4, 2015


You may have heard the name INTERPOL mentioned in movies or TV shows, usually with the backdrop of some foreign locale.  But what is this organization, and why is it only mentioned in connection with some type of international crime?

INTERPOL stands for International Criminal Police Organization.  It’s just what the name implies, an international police force that has 190 countries as members of the organization.  Its role is to help police around the world fight crime.  INTERPOL also acts to bridge the gap between the laws of different countries, even if those countries don’t have diplomatic relations.  It’s second only to the United Nations as an organization with the most international representation.

INTERPOL investigates organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, counterfeiting, human trafficking, environmental crimes, corruption, cybercrime, and public safety.  It even issues an alert called a Red Notice that notifies member countries when an arrest warrant for a suspect has been issued.

The organization was established in Vienna, Austria as the International Criminal Police Commission.  Because of World War II, and the takeover of the country by Nazi Germany, the headquarters were moved to Berlin.  A year after the end of the war, the organization was re-established and moved its headquarters to an area outside of Paris called Saint-Cloud in 1946.  The headquarters stayed there until 1989 when it was moved to its present location in Lyon, France.  In 1956, the organization renamed itself INTERPOL.

  INTERPOL Headquarters  Massimiliano Mariani/Wikimedia

INTERPOL has four priorities that it uses in its fight against international crime.  They run a global police information system that connects all the member nations together, and any member can access or request crime information.  INTERPOL maintains 24/7 support for law enforcement around the world that includes emergency and crisis response teams.  They also provide training and research for police organizations around the world.  Probably the biggest priority for INTERPOL is that they maintain a database on crimes and criminals from everywhere on the planet.  The budget for INTERPOL is around 79.6 million Euros, and the money comes from contributions from all the 190 member nations.  INTERPOL isn’t the only organization involved in dealing with worldwide crime.  There is also an organization called EUROPOL that is the law enforcement agency for the European Union, but it isn’t part of INTERPOL.

The logo for INTERPOL has been in use since 1950.  It has a globe on the logo that represents INTERPOL’s worldwide activities.  The olive branches represent peace, the vertical sword represents police action, and the scales represent justice.  The letters, OIPC is a French acronym that stands for “Organisation internationale de police criminelle”, while IPCO stands for “International Criminal Police Organization.”

Notable and Famous Cases During INTERPOL’s History

One of Monet’s art pieces called “Impression, Soleil Levant” was stolen at gun point from the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris in 1985.  The thieves were Philippe Jamin and Youssef Khimoun, members of an art theft syndicate.  INTERPOL tracked them to Japan where they were linked to other crimes, and the painting was eventually recovered in Corsica in 1990.  Jamin and Khimoun had been hired by a Japanese gangster to pull off the job.

Albert Walker was a Canadian con-man who stole millions from from his friends, colleagues, and clients during the 1980s.  He went to number two on INTERPOL’s most wanted list and fled to the United Kingdom with his daughter who even posed as his wife.  It wasn’t until 1996 before he was apprehended.  Walker had murdered a business associate and then assumed his identity which ultimately led to his capture.

Charles Sobhraj was known as “The Serpent” during the 1970s because he stalked and killed 12 westerners in Southeast Asia and used their passports and identities to elude the authorities.  INTERPOL caught him in 1976 in India as he was trying to scam a French tour group with two other accomplices.

A pair of bank robbers named Craig Pritchert and Nova Guthrie stole more than $500,000 across the western US in the late 1990s, and they became known as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.  The pair lived it up on their take and took vacations to the mountains of Colorado and the Caribbean.  They were eventually caught in Cape Town, South Africa, where they were living at the time.  An informant had recognized them after they had appeared on an episode of America’s Most Wanted.

A British smuggler named Jonathan Toekley-Parry moved over 3,000 pieces of Egyptian antiquities out of Egypt and disguised them as reproductions in the 1990s.  INTERPOL, along with Scotland Yard and the Egyptian Antiquities Police, caught up to Toekley-Parry in 1997.

The Mexican drug dealer, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, eluded capture from INTERPOL agents in Mexico in 1993. Fuentes fled to South America, but because of growing pressure from authorities, he began to undergo extensive plastic surgery to change his identity.  He died during a particular nine-hour procedure in 1997.

Sid Ahmed Rezala was known as the “Killer of the Trains” because of a series of murders he committed on trains in France between October and December 1999.  The Algerian eluded police because of his extensive knowledge of train travel.  He was apprehended in January 2000 when INTERPOL teamed up with French, British, and Portuguese police to find him.  He later committed suicide in a Portuguese prison a few months after his arrest.

Darnell Garcia, a former DEA agent, stole cocaine and heroin from evidence lockers with the help of two other agents during the mid-1980’s.  Between 1983 to 1987, the agents laundered the profits from the sales of the stolen drugs and placed millions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts.  Garcia fled the country, but was tracked down by INTERPOL after only a few months.  He was returned to the US and received an 80-year prison sentence.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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