Bo Xilai

Bo Xilai soon to face trial in HK$30m graft case

Briefings detail charges of bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement against ex-Chongqing party chief, with public hearing in Shandong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 7:24am

Disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai will soon face public trial in Shandong on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The news was revealed by sources with knowledge of internal meetings held yesterday in Bo's former power base of Chongqing and other cities.

The meetings to detail formal charges against the former Chongqing party secretary were seen as the final step before proceeding with the long-anticipated trial.

No timeframe for the trial was given, only that it would come in the "short term" and be held in Shandong's provincial capital of Jinan, according to officials with knowledge of the briefings.

Li Zhuang, a former Beijing-based lawyer who made his name defending an alleged triad boss in Chongqing during Bo's heyday, confirmed details of the case last night.

He said Bo was accused of receiving more than 20 million yuan (HK$25.1 million) in bribes and embezzling another five million yuan.

Phone calls to two of Bo's lawyers went unanswered. The Jinan Intermediate People's Court could not be contacted.

Bo has not been seen in public since March last year, when he was sacked from his Chongqing post amid intrigue surrounding his police chief's flight to the US consulate and the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo, as a former member of the Politburo, was widely seen as a champion of the party's conservative wing and his downfall thrust the party into one of its worst political crises in decades. Analysts said the internal announcement of the trial was made as Beijing rushes to wind up the scandal before the meeting of the third plenum of the Central Committee expected this autumn.

"The plenum meeting will set the tone for future reform plans, but the case of Bo is an issue left over from history and might interfere with the general direction of the meeting," said political analyst Chen Ziming , who expected a trial next month.

Bo would be the highest-ranking official prosecuted since former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was jailed for 18 years in April, 2008.

Last August, Bo's wife Gu Kailai , received a suspended death sentence for poisoning Heywood in November 2011 in a dispute over a failed property deal.

Last September, the party publicly accused Bo of corruption and abuse of power in relation to the murder case.

In addition to bribery, the government said he had maintained "improper sexual relationships with a number of women", an accusation not mentioned in yesterday's meetings.

Li Xiaolin , a Beijing- based lawyer who has represented Bo, said he was likely to receive a life sentence or suspended death sentence at most.

He said it would be unusual for such a high-ranking official to be executed.

Earlier this month, former railway minister Liu Zhijun received a suspended death sentence for abusing his office and accepting bribes and gifts worth 64.6 million yuan.