Chinese Communist "princeling" Bo Xilai, expected by many to take a key leadership position in the leadership transition of 2012, was expelled from the Communist Party in September after a career that saw him as Mayor of Dalian City, Minister of Commerce and Party Chief of the Chongqing municipality. His wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for murdering British business partner Neil Heywood.
Bo family's links to 'secret French villa revealed'
Dramatic details of how Bo Xilai's family and their associates devised complex plans to invest in a luxurious French villa in 2001 emerged at the former Chongqing party boss's trial.
Cross-examination yesterday morning focused on the Villa Fontaine Saint Georges, a six-bedroom mansion on the French Riviera with a swimming pool and 4,000 square metre garden.
In oral and written testimonies, Bo's wife Gu Kalai, his ally turned nemesis, former police chief Wang Lijun, and other witnesses set out how French architect Patrick Devillers helped Gu build a complicated network of front companies to hide links between the French property and the Bo family.
The complex financial arrangements also ensured that Gu retained firm control and de facto ownership of the villa, which was paid for by developer Xu Ming, who is accused of corrupt dealings with Bo.
Gu testified that the villa was intended to safeguard their son Bo Guagua's financial future.
"I told the daddy of Guagua that I hoped Guagua could focus on his studies and would not have to worry about making a living as that may spoil his future," Gu said in written testimony. "That is why I asked Xu Ming to buy this overseas property so it can be a source of stable income for Guagua in the future. When Guagua grows up, he can manage the property himself,"
"The daddy of Guagua supported the idea after he heard this," she added.
The shadow companies were registered in the British Virgin Islands, Canada, Luxembourg and France. The complicated network of shadow companies and ownership not only helped protect the identity of the owner, but also helped reduce tax.
Experts suggest that the methods used by Bo's family to transform their ill-gotten gains into overseas property may be the tip of the iceberg; a rare insight into how senior officials manage their illicit assets.
"Purchasing overseas property and making profits from rental is a typical means of money laundering for corrupt officials. In some cases, they also invest the profits made overseas into their business in China," said Zhang Lifan, a historian studying the Communist Party.
"It is interesting that the court spent a lot of time proving the wife's relations to the bribes and the villa. But Bo himself denied even the least awareness of the bribes," he added.
But Gu wrote in her testimony that to prepare for the decoration and leasing of the French villa, she made two sets of photo slides to show to Xu. "Xu said I was very talented. Bo was there. He joked that I am an artist," she wrote.
Gu's testimony on Thursday revealed that the family had multiple homes in Chongqing, Dalian, Shenyang and Beijing.
Mainland media printed photos of their courtyard home at No71 Xinkai Hutong in Beijing's Dongcheng district. Courtyards are among the most expensive properties in the capital.