Wife of Bo Xilai confesses to murder of British businessman


GU KAILAI, the wife of purged Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, has confessed to murdering British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing last year. The reason was to stop him revealing details of her financial misdeeds, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun has reported.

The Chinese government has maintained that Ms Gu was “strongly suspected” of involvement in the death in November of Mr Heywood, who had business ties with her and Mr Bo.

Mr Bo was stripped of his post as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing in southwest China in April, in what has been China’s biggest political scandal in decades, and neither he nor his wife have been seen in public since.

Citing Chinese Communist Party sources, the paper said Ms Gu was being interrogated in a government-affiliated facility in north China.

She told investigators she killed Mr Heywood to stop him revealing illegal transfers abroad of $6 billion (€4.78 billion) that the Briton had allegedly helped her to organise by opening accounts and exchanging currencies. The transfers were sent abroad in the names of relatives and friends in the US, Britain and elsewhere to conceal her illegal earnings.

Mr Bo was purged after his protegé and former police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chengdu and revealed suspicions that Ms Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, an aide in their household, were behind Mr Heywood’s death.

Initially Chinese authorities said Mr Heywood died from alcohol poisoning or a heart attack, but they now believe he may have been poisoned. The Communist Party’s central leadership set up a special investigation team in February to re-investigate the case.

According to the investigation report circulated among senior cadres, Ms Gu (53) admitted to killing her former associate after feeling “driven into a corner” by the investigation into her financial dealings and she had provided a specific explanation about how she killed Mr Heywood.

The authorities are also investigating whether Mr Bo (62) was aware of his wife’s deeds, the sources said.

The investigation has seen hundreds of Mr Bo’s associates detained or questioned, from household staff to senior corporate executives.

Ms Gu has also confessed to taking bribes and sending money overseas. She has told investigators she received money from a number of companies trying to win influence with her husband.

The report was drawn up by a top Communist Party bureau under President Hu Jintao, who is also general secretary of the party.

After seeing the report, the leadership decided to indict Ms Gu, Asahi Shinbun said.

The stage is now set for Ms Gu to go to trial. The government is keen to get this under way in the summer to have it out of the way before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition in the autumn, when President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are due to hand over the reins of power to Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.

The charges against Ms Gu are criminal and it is rare in China that anyone brought to such a trial is found innocent. It is likely she will either be executed, or have a death sentence suspended for two years, which usually means it will not be carried out.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has said it will not extradite a Frenchman it detained on June 13th for suspected involvement in Mr Heywood’s death, saying the authorities need more evidence of wrongdoing.

Foreign minister Hor Namhong said Cambodian officials detained architect Patrick Devillers at China’s request but needed more evidence to hand him over to another nation. “We have decided to keep him here,” Mr Namhong said.

Mr Devillers was closely linked to Mr Bo, Ms Gu and Mr Heywood.France is putting pressure on Phnom Penh to hand Mr Devillers over to French custody.