A French architect thought to be linked to the wife of purged Communist Party leader Bo Xilai was arrested in Cambodia, officials said on Tuesday, in a move that suggested investigations in China into the suspended Politburo member were widening ahead of a crucial leadership meeting.
While it remained unclear whether the arrest of Patrick Devillers was immediately linked to the cases against Mr. Bo and his wife Gu Kailai, Phnom Penh police officials said the arrest made about two weeks ago was done “with the cooperation of China”.
“We are considering whether to send him to China or France. China has demanded he be sent to China because he committed offences there,” Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth told Agence France-Presse. French Embassy officials confirmed his arrest, adding they were seeking clarifications.
Mr. Devillers had close business dealings with Ms. Gu, who has been accused of “intentional homicide” over the death of another associate, British businessman Neil Heywood. Mr. Bo, the former Chongqing party secretary who was seen as a key figure in the next generation of leadership before the scandal, stands accused of “serious discipline violations” and has been suspended from the powerful 25-member Politburo.
Mr. Devillers and Heywood were reported as having close business dealings with the Bo family, and particularly with Ms. Gu. The Frenchman, according to reports, even shared the same address as Ms. Gu when she resided in the British seaside town of Bournemouth while her son, Bo Guagua, was enrolled at the elite Harrow school with the support of Heywood. Mr. Devillers’ property company was also reported as being listed at the same Beijing address as the law firm of Ms. Gu.
The Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is still carrying out investigations into the death of Heywood and the Bo family's finances. The scandal surrounding the influential leader, who was the son of an important CPC revolutionary figure and party elder Bo Yibo and enjoyed support among a wide network of fellow “princeling” leaders, has complicated the once-in-decade leadership transition that will begin later this year.
The CPC leadership is looking to reach consensus and garner support for verdicts on the cases of Mr. Bo and Ms. Gu amid intense jockeying for positions ahead of the 18th Party Congress, which will be held in October or November.
Reflecting the difficulties in moving forward the politically sensitive case, it took as long as three weeks for the party to simply announce, on April 10, that Mr. Bo was being suspended from the Politburo over “serious discipline violations” following his removal as Chongqing party chief on March 15. Top CPC leaders are expected to hold a meeting to finalise the line-up of the next generation of leaders in July, when an announcement on the Bo Xilai issue could be likely with the leadership looking to draw a line over the case ahead of the party congress.
Politburo member Zhang Dejiang, Mr. Bo’s replacement in Chongqing, acknowledged this week in rare comments about the scandal that the case had caused “great damage to the party and the country’s image”.
He said in a speech on Monday to the Chongqing local party congress that while the municipality’s development and achievements “must be strictly separated” from the case of Neil Heywood and Mr. Bo’s “serious disciplinary violations”, party cadres needed to “sincerely draw lessons from those cases and earnestly improve our work”.