China's Bo Admits Knowing Of Embezzled Funds

by
Reuters
Ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai accepted responsibility for 5 million yuan ($817,000) in funds he is accused of embezzling which ended up in his wife's bank account, saying he had let his attention wander, in testimony read out in court on Saturday.

Chinese politician Bo Xilai

Ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai accepted responsibility for 5 million yuan ($817,000) in funds he is accused of embezzling which ended up in his wife's bank account, saying he had let his attention wander, in testimony read out in court on Saturday.

Bo, once a rising star in China's leadership, is facing charges of corruption, bribery and abuse of power in China's most dramatic trial since the Gang of Four were dethroned in 1976, at the end of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

On the third day of the trial, the court read out testimony it said Bo provided on April 2, in which he admitted to knowing about the money, siphoned off from a government building project.

Bo said that Wang Zhenggang, former director of the urban and rural planning bureau in Dalian, where Bo once served as mayor, told him in 2002 that he suggested to Bo the money be used by Bo's wife and son, who was studying overseas.

"I refused him. Afterwards, Wang Zhenggang came and found me again, told me why the money was difficult to deal with, and said that if I were busy he could talk to Gu Kailai about it," Bo said, according to his testimony.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence, effectively life in prison, last year after being found guilty of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, a death which led to the scandal surrounding Bo after Bo's then police chief alleged Bo had tried to cover up the crime.

Bo said he agreed to Wang speaking to Gu about the money because he "lacked alertness", which is how the money ended up going to her.

"After Gu and Wang had their discussions, I did not go and investigate, I let it slide. It was more than a decade ago, I don't really remember the details," Bo said.

"This money had already gone into my wife's account, leading to the personal use of public money," he said.

"I am willing to approve the analysis of the prosecutors after their investigation, and at the same time accept legal responsibility for this. I am deeply ashamed and regretful about this incident," Bo said.

DIVISIONS

Bo's career was stopped short last year by the scandal involving Gu and he was sacked as Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.

Supporters of Bo's Maoist-themed social programmes say he lost out in a power struggle with capitalist-leaning reformists in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as society.

During court proceedings, Bo disputed Wang's account of what had happened to the money as containing inconsistencies, but Bo did not dispute his earlier written deposition, according to court transcripts.

"From start to finish in this written deposition I hold that I had did not intend to embezzle this money," he said.

Bo also disputed Gu's assertion in her written testimony that the money was needed to support their son, Guagua, who was studying in Britain, repeating he thought Gu was possible trying to get herself a lighter sentence.

"At that time Gu Kailai had lots of money," Bo said.

Bo suggested Gu was angry with him at the time, as he had had an affair.

"She took Guagua away, to a big degree acting rashly after feeling wronged," Bo said. 

On the first day of the trial, on Thursday, Bo mounted a feisty defence of charges he received more than 20 million yuan in bribes.

Bo said that he had initially admitted to Communist Party anti-corruption investigators receiving the bribes as he had been "under psychological pressure".

Bo also said he been framed by one of the men accused of bribing him, businessman Tang Xiaolin, who he called a "mad dog".