Personal differences between Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai spilled over into the People's Intermediate Court in Jinan as the disgraced former Chongqing party boss dismissed his wife's written testimony against him as "very comical and ridiculous".
Bo's public criticism of Gu was easily one of the most extraordinary moments on the first day of his trial on corruption and abuse of power charges. The pair had once been one of China's most prominent power couples; he the leader of the country's largest municipality and she a former lawyer.
Now, Gu is serving a suspended death sentence for the 2011 poisoning death of British businessman Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel. Prosecutors presented her testimony to help convict Bo of bribery charges that could result in a lengthy jail term or even execution.
In her statement, Gu said that she took US$130,000 and tens of thousands of yuan from safes in the couple's homes in Shenyang and Beijing between 2002 and 2005. Gu said the money must have been Bo's because it was not hers and only they had access to it.
"At the homes in Shenyang, Dalian, Beijing and Chongqing we shared one safe and it was the only one we shared," Gu said. "It could be opened only by the two of us. The money was put in by Bo Xilai because only we could open it."
Gu said the money was taken to Britain and spent by her and their son, Bo Guagua , who studied at Harrow School and later Oxford.
But the elder Bo vehemently denied the allegations.
"I think Gu Kailai's testimony is very comical and ridiculous," Bo told the court. He asked how Gu could know he put that money in the safes when he had told her no such thing and never asked her to take it out.
Moreover, Bo said, there was much more money in the shared safe and she could not prove the money that she claimed to take out was his.
"Gu Kailai has far more money than the US$50,000, US$80,000 and 50,000 yuan (HK$62,900)," Bo said. "Would she be so low as to spend all the money in the shared safe? I don't think that makes any sense.
"In fact her money was way more than that amount," he said. "How could she be so clear about the US$50,000, US$80,000 and 50,000 yuan?"
Bo's lawyers questioned Gu's fitness as a witness on the grounds that she was a convicted murderer serving a suspended death sentence. They noted that she had shown signs of mental illness.
"We have evidence to prove that Gu Kailai has a habit of lying often, so [you] can't say that weaker self-control has no influence on the testimony," his lawyers argued. "There is no evidence that Gu Kailai has recovered from her mental illness."
Prosecutors acknowledged that Gu had suffered from weak self-control, but there was no evidence that Gu lacked the mental capacity to testify.
Bo also sought to distance himself from Dalian property tycoon Xu Ming , who appeared in court to testify. Bo said Xu was "a friend of Gu" and they had nothing to talk about in common.
Xu said he paid US$3.2 million to buy a villa for the Bo family in France and spent 100,000 yuan to fund a trip to Africa for Bo Guagua in 2000. Xu also paid 300,000 yuan to help the younger Bo pay his credit card bills and gave him 80,000 yuan to buy a scooter.
The elder Bo denied knowledge of any such payments. That was because he and Gu spent so little time together, he said, offering some of his kindest words about his wife.
"From the very beginning until now I thought Gu Kailai was a modern, intellectual woman of culture and good taste," Bo said. "We always talked about something we both shared an interest in. We had very little time together when we were both in Beijing."
Bo said Gu lived abroad before 2007 and he was often too busy serving in his party posts.