China: Bo Xilai’s wife testifies at trial

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FALLEN Chinese politician Bo Xilai has branded his wife insane after she testified at his trial that he knew of money and a villa in the French Riviera that prosecutors say were given to the couple by a businessman friend.

The testimony from Gu Kailai directly contradicted her husband Bo’s robust defence on Thursday, and appeared to set him up to be found guilty in China’s most dramatic trial since the Gang of Four were dethroned in 1976 at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

“He should know about it all,” Gu said in a video recording shown in court and posted on the court’s microblog, when asked whether Bo knew she and their son, Bo Guagua, had received money from plastics-to-property entrepreneur Xu Ming.

Bo dismissed Gu’s testimony as the ravings of a madwoman. “Bogu Kailai has changed, she’s insane, often tells lies,” Bo said, using Gu’s official but rarely used name. “Under the circumstances of her mental illness, the investigators placed huge pressure on her to expose me.

“Her testimony as far as I am concerned, was under psychological pressure, and driven by [hope of] a reduced sentence.”

Gu is in prison for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011, the crime that eventually led to Bo’s downfall. The businessman Xu, who is also in custody, was once close to Bo’s family but testified against him on Thursday, according to the transcripts on the court’s microblog. Foreign reporters were not allowed into court.

Bo, a former Communist Party chief in Chongqing, has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (£2.8m), corruption and abuse of power. Of that cash total, about 21.8 million yuan allegedly came from Xu and another businessman, Tang Xiaolin.

Bo, 64, was a rising star when his career was stopped short last year by the scandal involving Gu.

Supporters of his Maoist-themed social programmes say he lost out in a power struggle with capitalist-leaning reformists in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as in Chinese society.

Last week, sources said Gu would testify against her husband only if a deal had been reached with the authorities to protect their son. A deal in which Bo can be swiftly convicted and sent to jail, sparing him the death penalty and with no repercussions for his son, would be in the interests of China’s leadership, which wants the trial to be concluded without causing open friction between Bo’s followers and critics.

On Thursday, observers said court proceedings had probably been scripted and that Bo could receive a pre-arranged sentence in exchange for limited outbursts that would show the trial was fair, appeasing his followers.

The trial will continue for a third day today, despite expectations it could last just one day.

In written testimony, Gu said she had shown Bo the graphics and slide-shows for the design of a villa in Nice, France, that was paid for by Xu. Bo asked her about the slide-shows and, according to Gu, she told Bo about Xu’s involvement. “Therefore, he knew that I asked Xu Ming to pay for this villa in France,” Gu said in her statement.

In the video, she seemed composed as she was questioned by an official from the state prosecutor’s office. She laughed when asked whether she had been coerced into giving evidence.

Gu did not link Bo with Heywood’s murder but said he was aware she considered the Briton a threat to their son. According to testimony at Gu’s trial, she killed Heywood because he had threatened Guagua after a business dispute with her.

Gu said Bo was aware of her fears about the safety of their son, who is in the United States preparing for a law degree at Columbia University. Gu said she was afraid Guagua “would be kidnapped and killed in America”.

“In 2011, Guagua’s personal safety was threatened and Bo Xilai understood this,” she said. “We drew up a blacklist of suspicious people. One of them was Neil Heywood. I explained all of this to Bo Xilai.”

Bo could face the death penalty, but life imprisonment is more likely.