Bo Xilai trial for bribery and embezzlement expected to begin soon

Chinese politician linked to murder of British businessman Neil Heywood faces trial in the ‘short term’

Bo Xilai, once a contender for the top leadership in the world’s second-largest economy, was ousted last year as Communist Party chief in Chongqing, in China’s biggest political scandal in two decades, following the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Photograph:  Reuters/Jason Lee

Bo Xilai, once a contender for the top leadership in the world’s second-largest economy, was ousted last year as Communist Party chief in Chongqing, in China’s biggest political scandal in two decades, following the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Photograph: Reuters/Jason Lee

Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 17:58

China’s “trial of the century” could begin within weeks with purged politburo member Bo Xilai facing charges of bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, a Hong Kong newspaper reported today.

Citing officials with knowledge of internal meetings held in Mr Bo’s former power base of Chongqing and other cities, the South China Morning Post said no time frame for the trial had been set but it would take place in the “short term” and be held in Shandong’s provincial capital, Jinan.

Li Zhuang, a former Beijing-based lawyer, told the newspaper Mr Bo was accused of receiving more than 20 million yuan (€2. million) in bribes and embezzling another five million yuan (€615,000).

Mr Bo, once a contender for the top leadership in the world’s second-largest economy, was ousted last year as Communist Party chief in Chongqing, in China’s biggest political scandal in two decades, following the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

He has not been seen in public since March last year, after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu and alleged that Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered Mr Heywood by poisoning him.

Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence and Mr Wang was also jailed. Mr Bo was expelled from the Communist Party, accused of “grave violations of party discipline” that stretched back to his days in Dalian and Liaoning provinces, where he was minister of commerce, and in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where he was party chief.

He is also accused of “improper sexual relationships with a number of women”, an accusation not mentioned in the current round of allegations against Mr Bo.

The charges are relatively mild, given the sums of money previously mentioned in corruption allegations, and Mr Bo is unlikely to be given the death sentence.

As the son of a legendary early leader of the Communist Party, Bo Yibo, his fate is a test of the new leadership’s campaign to crack down on official graft.

The government may try and resolve the issue before a meeting of the third plenum of the Central Committee expected this autumn.

However, there have been false reports before. Another Hong Kong newspaper, the Beijing-backed Ta Kung Pao, reported erroneously in January that Mr Bo was about to be tried in the southern city of Guiyang.

Mr Bo would be the highest-ranking official prosecuted since former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was jailed for 18 years in April 2008.

Earlier this month, former railways minister Liu Zhijun, the man behind the country’s high-speed rail project, was given a suspended death sentence for abuse of power and accepting bribes and gifts worth 64.6 million yuan (€7.95 million).