Disgraced politician Bo Xilai dismisses ‘insane’ wife’s evidence
Gu Kailai testifies husband ‘must have known’ about gifts to her from tycoons
Bo Xilai, left, speaks to Jinan intermediate people’s court during his corruption trial. Photograph: video via AP
Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, former Chongqing Communist Party chief, speaking on August 10th in a video screened yesterday during her husband’s trial at Jinan intermediate people’s court. Photograph: Reuters
Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai described his wife Gu Kailai as “insane” after video testimony in which she described how political favours and bribes were granted, on the second day of his trial on corruption and abuse of power charges.
Looking considerably healthier than she did a year ago during the trial that convicted her of poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood, she said Mr Bo “must have known” about payments from tycoons and friends.
The accusations included a stake in a luxury villa in the French Riviera, dodgy dealings around a Dalian football club, and, in what must be a first for a high-profile corruption trial, a hot-air balloon project.
“She’s insane, and she’s always making things up,” Mr Bo told Jinan intermediate people’s court, after she gave the video evidence. She had compared herself to Jing Ke, the assassin who tried and failed to kill the Qin emperor who first unified China more than 2,000 years ago.
Mr Bo, the 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of Chongqing metropolis, has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (€3.3 million), corruption and abusing his power in interfering in the investigation of Mr Heywood’s 2011 murder. Of that amount, about 21.8 million yuan (€2.67 million) came from Xu Ming, once one of China’s richest men, and another businessman Tang Xiaolin.
“Under conditions where her mental state is abnormal, the investigators put her under immense pressure to expose me,” he said.
The Chinese leadership is hoping to use the trial against the former rising star of the Politburo to finally put to bed the country’s biggest political scandal in decades.
Foreign journalists have been barred from the trial, and information is coming through microblog postings on the court Weibo feed, and court transcripts.
The trial had been expected to end yesterday but continues today. And while Mr Bo looks sure to be found guilty, and will be sentenced next month, he has launched a surprisingly robust defence, saying he knew nothing of the favours granted by two businessmen to his wife and son, Bo Guagua.
The focus of Gu’s statement was the family’s relationship with Xu Ming. During her trial a year ago, Gu looked bloated and unwell, which some said was due to the medication she was taking for depression, but in yesterday’s video testimony she had slimmed down and looked relaxed and confident.
She said that Mr Bo, when he was mayor of Mr Xu’s hometown of Dalian, helped the tycoon to buy the Dalian Shide football club and with finding land for a hot-air balloon project and in return there were gifts such as a villa in Nice, air tickets, cash and, obscurely, a Segway electric stand-up scooter for Guagua.
He also paid for a trip to Africa that cost €98,000, she said, and among the gifts he brought back was “a piece of meat from a very exotic animal”.
“Xu Ming is our old and longtime friend,” she said in the testimony. “We had a very good impression of him and believed he was honest and kind, so we trusted him a lot.”
She outlined the web of business dealings surrounding the Nice villa that led to the falling-out with Mr Heywood.
She said Mr Heywood demanded €1.64 million in compensation for his stake in the villa after his involvement with the property ended.
According to testimony at Gu’s trial, she killed Heywood because he had threatened Guagua after a business dispute with her, and it is possible that this is the dispute in question. “We were worried Guagua would be killed in the US, and I read Guagua and Neil Heywood’s email exchanges so I became more worried,” she said.
More details were provided by Patrick Devillers, a French architect who maintained a business relationship with both Mr Bo and Gu, and said Mr Heywood had been “enraged” and “threatened to reveal everything”.
Mr Bo could face the death sentence, though a suspended death sentence is more likely, which effectively means life imprisonment, or a 20-year term.