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.
'Caretaker' Zhao Dongping hid cash for Bo Xilai's family
Zhuang Pinghui and Keith Zhai
Details of how 5 million yuan (HK$6.3 million) in allegedly embezzled public funds was funnelled to the family of Bo Xilai by their "caretaker" came to light on the third day of Bo's trial for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Zhao Dongping, director of the Beijing Angdao law firm, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, testified in a written statement that he accepted and kept 5 million yuan on behalf of Gu Kailai, Bo's wife, in addition to other family funds.
"Zhao Dongping is very reliable. He was a primary school classmate of Bo Xilai and they were very close," Gu said in her written testimony. "My assets at the law firm were run by Zhao. I would go to him when I needed money. I trusted Zhao very much."
Zhao is said to have once given financial assistance to a desperately poor Bo during the Cultural Revolution when his father, a revolutionary elder, was persecuted. Bo remained close to Zhao after he came to power, and Zhao was on the payroll of Gu's law firm before she closed it.
The 5 million yuan had been allocated to Dalian, where Bo formerly served as mayor, from an upper level of government on completion of a classified project in 2002.
Wang Zhenggang, former director of the city's urban and rural planning bureau, suggested to Bo that he could take the money in secret and use it on Gu and his son, who was studying overseas. Wang said he could talk to Gu directly if Bo was too busy, the court was told. Bo was Liaoning governor at the time.
According to Gu, Bo had a "very implicit" way of speaking and the two understood what the matter was without speaking about it directly. "We both knew very clearly that Wang Zhenggang wanted to give money to Bo Xilai and myself," Gu said.
Zhao testified in a written statement that he first met Wang in 2000 and was told by Gu to contact Wang one day in March or April about "income from a business".
Wang met Zhao in a coffee shop in Dalian and Wang said he wanted to repay a debt of gratitude to Bo, since "the big boss [Bo Xilai] worked hard and his son was studying overseas". One of his friends had completed a project and could transfer 5 million yuan to the law firm.
Zhao testified he felt the amount was too big and told Gu as much, but Gu said "you handle it well and keep it for me".
Zhao then proposed to transfer the money, with Gu's consent, to the bank account of a friend's firm first, to be safe.
"Many people said I was the caretaker of Bo's family. Actually, that's the role I played," Zhao said. "I kept money other than the 5 million yuan for the family in the same way."
But the caretaker was not always loyal. In written testimony presented to the court on Friday, Zhao described reluctantly signing four legal documents in 2006 on Gu's instructions.
Zhao said he asked Gu for copies of the documents but never received them. Clueless about the documents and reluctant to sign under such circumstances, Zhao deliberately used a different signature.
"I did so on purpose for, while I could not refuse to sign as I faced Gu, I did so also against my will."
The Beijing office of the law firm could not be reached for comment.