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Bo Xilai blames wife for stealing state cash

Disgraced Chinese politician admits mistakes, but insists he was not complicit in his wife's theft of government funds.

Last Modified: 24 Aug 2013 13:36
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Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chinese politician, has told a court that his wife stole $800,000 of government funds without his involvement after he had cheated on her.

As the trial moved into a third unscheduled day on Saturday, Bo rejected prosecution claims that he knew his wife, Gu Kailai, was taking the money in 2000 when she moved to England with their son, Bo Guagua, following revelations of Bo's affair with a 20-something secretary.

Bo, 64, told Jinan Intermediate People's Court that Gu took their son overseas in a fit of rage after he had been unfaithful, but he did not know she intended to take the money. He admitted that the sum eventually showed up in his wife's account, and that he had not acted soon enough to get the money back.

"I am ashamed of it. I was too careless, because this is public money," Bo told the court. "I failed to retrieve the money later, and that's a factual statement, but
can you say I had the intention to embezzle the money? No."

China expert Gordon Chang on the impact of the trial

Bo also mocked as implausible a former city official's evidence, offered earlier in the trial, that he had overheard a phone call between the couple in which Bo explicitly promised to embezzle the cash from a government project to support his wife.

"Not even the stupidest corrupt official would do this," Bo said of the account. "Would I say something this sensitive on the phone?"

The ruling Communist Party is using the trial against Bo, a former Politburo member and party leader of  the city of Chongqing, to cap a messy political scandal unleashed by suspicions that his wife killed a British businessman, Neil Heywood.

That scandal led to Bo's removal from office, cemented by criminal charges of interfering with a murder investigation and netting $4.3 million through corruption.

The court's release of trial proceedings are in sharp contrast with the August 2012 conviction of Gu, when she pleaded guilty to Heywood's murder in daylong proceedings and scant details were released. She was convicted of the murder and was given a suspended death sentence.

Earlier in his trial, Bo said his wife was "crazy" and could be seeking a more lenient jail term by denouncing him.

Prosecutors have also charged that he accepted bribes from businessmen in the form of money or gifts to his family - including a villa in Nice, France, and plane tickets to three continents - in exchange for political favours.

The charges of bribery and embezzlement carry penalties of between 10 years and life imprisonment, or death in severe cases, while the abuse of power charge could result in up to seven years in jail.

Courts in China are controlled by the Communist Party and so a conviction is expected. Bo denies all charges.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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