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International Criminal Police Organization
Headquarters Lyon, France
Membership 186 member states
Official languages Arabic, English, French and Spanish
Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble
Formation 1923
Official website Interpol's official website

Interpol (or International Criminal Police Organization) was created in 1923 to assist international criminal police co-operation. Interpol, once merely the organization's telegraphic address, was officially incorporated into the organization's new name adopted in 1956, prior to which it was known as the International Criminal Police Commission.

Interpol is the world's third largest international organization, after the United Nations and FIFA; it currently has 186 member countries. It is financed by annual contributions of about €41.7 million from its member countries; Europol, by comparison, receives €63.4 million annually. The organization is headquartered in Lyon, France after moving from Saint Cloud, a town located in the vicinity of Paris. The currently serving president of Interpol is Mr. Jackie Selebi, National Commissioner of the South African Police Service. The current secretary general, Ronald K. Noble, formerly of the U.S. Treasury Department, is the first non-European to hold the position.

Because of the politically neutral role Interpol must play, its constitution forbids any involvement in crimes that do not overlap several member countries, or any political, military, religious, or racial crimes. Its work focuses primarily on public safety and terrorism, organized crime, war crimes, illicit drug production and trafficking, weapons smuggling, trafficking in human beings, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, high-tech crime, and corruption.

In 2005, the Interpol General Secretariat employed a staff of 502, representing 78 member countries. Women comprised 42 percent of the staff. The Interpol public web site - - received an average of 2.2 million page visits every month.

Following the publication of an Interpol Red Notice or difusion, 3,500 people were arrested by police in 2005.


Interpol was founded in Austria in 1923 as the International Criminal Police Commission. The organization came under control of Nazi Germany when Germany declared the Anschluss (political union between Germany and Austria). The staff and facilities of Interpol were utilized as an information gathering unit for the Gestapo, until the Nazi regime fell to Allied forces.

Senior military officials from Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom reorganized Interpol into today's organization.


Each member country maintains a National Central Bureau (NCB) staffed by national law enforcement officers. The NCB is the designated contact point for the Interpol General Secretariat, regional bureaus and other member countries requiring assistance with overseas investigations and the location and apprehension of fugitives. This is especially important in countries which have many law-enforcement agencies: this central bureau is a unique point of contact for foreign entities, which may not understand the complexity of the law-enforcement system of the country they attempt to contact. For instance, the NCB for the United States of America is housed at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The NCB will then ensure the proper transmission of information to the correct agency.

Interpol maintains a large database charting unsolved crimes and both convicted and alleged criminals. At any time, a member nation has access to specific sections of the database and its police forces are encouraged to check information held by Interpol whenever a major crime is committed. The rationale behind this is that drugs traffickers and similar criminals have international ties, and so it is likely that crimes will extend beyond political boundaries.

Since 2002 Interpol has also been maintaining a database of lost and stolen identification and travel documents allowing member countries to validate whether a document issued by another country has been invalidated by the issuing authority due to being reported missing or stolen. Passport fraud for example is often performed by altering a stolen passport, thus several countries are working on integrating online queries to this database into their standard border control procedures to help identify fraudulent passports from foreign countries when those passports are presented to immigration officials at airports and border checkpoints. As of early 2006, the database contained over ten million identification items reported lost or stolen and is expected to grow even more as more countries join the list of those reporting into the database.

A member nation's police force can contact one or more member nations by sending a message relayed through Interpol.

Member countries

Interpol in popular culture

Contrary to what has been featured in some works of fiction, Interpol officers do not directly conduct inquiries in member countries. Its main role is the passing on of information, not actual law enforcement.

As an international law enforcement agency, Interpol agents offer unique qualities that make them good candidates for fiction, even if it does not reflect reality.

Some examples:

  • In the Lupin III franchise, Lupin's eternal foil, Inspector Zenigata, is an agent of Interpol.
  • In the comedy film Johnny English, it is eventually revealed that Lorna Campbell is actually an Interpol agent spying on Pascal Sauvage.
  • In Capcom's Street Fighter video game franchise (and many of its adaptations to other media), Chun-Li is an agent of Interpol.
  • In Marvel's X-Men the now deceased Irish X-man Banshee was a former interpol officer.
  • In the Sly Cooper series, Carmelita Fox and a few other characters are Interpol officers.
  • In the movie Lord of War, Jack Valentine ( Ethan Hawke) is an Interpol officer.
  • In the movie Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt ( Tom Cruise) is told he is on Interpol's Most Wanted list.
  • In the manga series Death Note, Interpol was trying to capture Kira, a murderer killing international criminals.
  • In the book and movie The Da Vinci Code, the Interpol is mentioned several times, mainly in reference to their extensive database of information.
  • In the anime/manga series Azumanga Daioh, Tomo wanted to be part of Interpol.
  • There is an American band that shares the name Interpol.
  • The Goon Show made a few references to Interpol throughout their run in the 1950s.
  • The logo of the Terran Empire within Star Trek's Mirror Universe looks similar to that of Interpol's logo.
  • "Interpol" databases are referenced in the Carmen Sandiego computer games.

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