Bo Xilai

Gu Kailai admission may let Bo off hook

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:07pm


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Gu Kailai, the lawyer wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai, confessed to murder as well as 'economic crimes' during her detention over the death of a British businessman, according to a senior prosecutor with direct knowledge of the case.

Although Gu confessed to economic crimes, which can include everything from bribery to transferring money abroad, she has been charged only with intentional homicide in the poisoning death of Neil Heywood.

The absence of the economic crime charges could be the clearest sign yet that authorities do not plan to criminally prosecute her husband, the former Chongqing party boss, who is believed to still have support within the party.

'If Gu were not charged with economic crimes, Bo won't face too huge a problem,' said Beijing-based lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. 'The high-ups want to see an uncomplicated and quick ending.'

The source, who was part of the prosecution team and spoke on the condition on anonymity, described the suspect as 'gracious' and 'relaxed' during questioning.

'Gu told investigators everything she could remember and, as for those accusations about which she couldn't remember clearly, she asked the investigators to go ahead and write up anything they'd like to.'

The source also said that the only physical evidence prosecutors obtained in their investigation was a piece of Heywood's heart removed by former police Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun before his body was hastily cremated in November without an autopsy.

British media reported in May that Wang had carved out a piece of flesh from Heywood's body. The source said such limited evidence means Gu was unlikely to receive the death penalty and would, at most, face life in prison.

Gu's trial has been scheduled for Thursday in Hefei, Anhui province, in what is believed to be an effort by party leaders to bring a speedy resolution to the case that has rocked the party's once-in-a-decade change of power later this year.

Bo, once a front runner to ascend to the supreme Politburo Standing Committee, is under investigation by the party's top disciplinary body.

Political observers said Gu's apparent good spirits and co-operation while in custody could imply she has reached a deal that provides the best scenario for her family.

She and Bo have one son, Bo Guagua, who recently finished a degree at Harvard University.

'The way the authorities made the distinction [between murder and economic crimes] showed there was some under-the-table deal,' said Ong Yew-kim, a Hong Kong-based legal expert.

In a brief report on July 26, Xinhua said Gu and a family aide poisoned Heywood because they believed he was a threat to Bo Guagua's security.

Dr Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University, said he believed Gu may be trying to clear her husband of criminal liability by admitting everything herself, 'in which case, Bo may only be subject to punishments within the framework of party discipline'.