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Bo trial becomes surreal family drama

He was once a political superstar in China, perhaps destined to lead the country. But for the past five days, Bo Xilai has been on trial for corruption and abuse of power.

The star witness against Bo was his wife, Gu Kailai.

She’s in jail for the poisoning death of U.K. businessman Neil Heywood in 2011.

Defendant Bo once ran Chongqing, one of China’s biggest and most important industrial cities. He served as China’s minister of commerce and had a seat on the party’s Politburo.

In her testimony by video, Bo’s wife described some of the gifts she and their son, Bo Guagua, enjoyed from plastics tycoon Xu Ming. Bo, she said, knew about the gifts.

There was a $130,000 trip to Africa for Guagua and a group of his friends. And a $12,000 Segway, according to the LA Times.

Xu paid off Guagua’s credit card debt and often flew the boy from China to Britain, where he went to Harrow and Oxford.

There were pleasure jaunts, courtesy of Xu, to Cuba and Argentina, Venice and Paris.

‘Guagua flew to Germany to see the 2006 World Cup,’ the LA Times said.

When Guagua mentioned he wanted to visit Africa with some friends, his mother rang Xu and presto — the businessman chartered a plane for six people from Dubai to Mt. Kilimanjaro. When Guagua had friends coming to Beijing, he would ask Xu to reserve (and pay for) their rooms, in five-star hotels of course. (According to the testimony, this included a delegation of 40 people from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where Guagua received his graduate degree.)

Th tycoon helped Gu buy a villa on the French Riviera, putting up about $3 million. The property was later registered in the name Neil Heywood, the U.K. businessman who sometimes helped Gu in her business deals.

Gu thought Heywood was cheating her on the costs to run the villa. So she struck his name off the deed in 2011.

Heywood said he was owed $2.3 million on the deal and threatened to expose Gu’s overseas wealth if she didn’t pay.

He was found dead in 2011 in a Chongqing hotel.

In a plea deal to protect her son, Gu admitted last year that she murdered Heywood with poison. And she agreed to testify against Bo, who was kicked out of the party in March last year.

In court Friday, defendant Bo said his wife, once a successful lawyer, had become mentally instable. She was furious about an affair he had, and the couple became estranged.

She imagined herself as a legendary Chinese assassin who murdered an emperor, Bo told the court.

Bo, who’s charged with taking $800,000 from a government building project and putting it in his wife’s account, has denied being involved in any graft.

The trial closed Monday.

A verdict in the case is expected in about two weeks.


Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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