Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun , whose flight to a US diplomatic mission in February triggered China's worst political crisis in more than two decades, faces four charges including defection and abuse of power, Xinhua said yesterday.
"Bending the law for selfish ends" and "bribe-taking" were the other two charges formally brought against him by prosecutors in Chengdu , the capital of Sichuan province.
The Intermediate Court of Chengdu was handling the case and "would choose a day for trial", the agency said.
The formal charges against Wang, the former top aide of disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , and his upcoming trial signal the Communist Party leadership intends to wrap up the scandal before its leadership transition. Gu Kailai , Bo's wife, was given a suspended death sentence last month for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. The scandal has rocked the party and once threatened to derail the 18th party congress, which is expected to be held next month to usher in the next generation of leaders.
Legal experts predict a heavy sentence for Wang.
"The charges are very serious; it's very unlikely he could get away lightly," said Mo Shaoping , a Beijing-based lawyer. "It will be life imprisonment at least, or he could even face a death sentence."
Xinhua quoted Chengdu prosecutors as saying Wang had been fully aware of Gu's crime but had chosen to violate his duty for personal favour.
"[Wang] clearly knew that Gu was strongly suspected in Heywood's death, but consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain so she would not be held legally responsible," the statement said.
Wang also "left his post without permission" and defected to the US consulate in Chengdu, which was a violation of Article 109 of the Criminal Law.
During his overnight stay at the US consulate, Wang voiced concern about Heywood's death in Chongqing last November, prompting the British embassy to request a fresh investigation.
Beijing lawyer Li Heping said defection was a rarely used charge these days.
"This is a meticulously planned decision by the authorities," he added.
Prosecutors also accused Wang of "unauthorised use of technical reconnaissance measures", even forging approval documents for this purpose, which led to the charge of "abuse of power".
Wang, who was interested in forensic pathology, allegedly kept Heywood's blood samples after he was poisoned by Gu and an associate in a hotel room and his body rushed to cremation.
Wang, also a former vice-mayor of Chongqing, used his position to rake in "large amounts of bribes" for granting favours, prosecutors said.
During his tenure as Chongqing's top policeman, Wang spearheaded a controversial crackdown on organised crime that critics say featured torture and other violations of procedure, as well as illegal confiscation of assets.
Wang Yuncai, Wang Lijun's legal representative, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that she was still waiting for the court to notify her of the date of the trial.