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French architect close to Bo Xilai may prove vital for probe

world Updated: Jul 19, 2012 01:02 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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A French architect close to the sacked Communist Party of China (CPC) leader Bo Xilai and his family was on his way to China from Cambodia where he had been held for a month on Beijing’s request, reports coming from Phnom Penh said Wednesday.

Patrick Henri Devillers was freed on Tuesday by the police in Cambodia where he had been held without any charge for more than a month.

Devillers’ arrival in China – where he is very likely to be questioned by the Chinese authorities – could prove vital in connecting the murky links of the Bo scandal involving money, murder and shadowy deals – probably the biggest political scandal to breakout in China in decades.

Both Bo, accused of severe indiscipline and his wife Gu Kailai, accused of murdering British national Neil Heywood for allegedly threatening to spill her illegal business deals, are currently detained at undisclosed locations. They have not been seen in public since their detention.

On Devillers’ detention, Cambodia had initially said he would not be sent to either China or France without an investigation, but officials on Tuesday said he left of his own free will.

"China wants him as a witness," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told Reuters news agency.

Deviller, 52, has been living in Cambodia for the past five years. Reports said he checked into a Shanghai-bound flight late on Tuesday.

An AFP report claimed earlier in July that a spokesperson for Cambodia's interior ministry, Khieu Sopheak, suggested Devillers – who has not formally been accused of any crime in China or Cambodia – could receive legal immunity if he co-operated with the Chinese inquiry into Bo and Gu.

For the CPC, preparing for the once-in-a-decade leadership change later this year, the scandal has embarrassingly exposed the unusual extent to which Bo’s family -- an elite Communist Party family where Bo's father was a revolutionary comrade of Mao Zedong and Gu's father a military hero - allowed foreigners to be involved in financial dealings.

The sacking of Bo in March from the post of party secretary of Chongqing city – the largest directly-controlled city located in southwest China with a population of millions – signalled the end to his promising political career.

Bo’s downfall was triggered after his former police chief and longtime aide fled to a U.S. consulate and divulged suspicions that Gu was involved in Heywood's death.

A month later Gu was detained for allegedly murdering Heywood, initially thought to have died of alcohol poisoning in November last year; it’s now claimed that he was poisoned.