A police investigation suggests that Neil Heywood was poisoned after threatening to expose the financial dealings of Gu Kailai, wife of now-deposed Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai. From Reuters:
It was the first time a specific motive has been revealed for Neil Heywood’s murder last November, a death which ended Chinese leader Bo Xilai’s hopes of emerging as a top central leader and threw off balance the Communist Party’s looming leadership succession.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, asked Heywood late last year to move a large sum of money abroad, and she became outraged when he demanded a larger cut of the money than she had expected due to the size of the transaction, the sources said.
She accused him of being greedy and hatched a plan to kill him after he said he could expose her dealings, one of the sources said, summarizing the police case. Both sources have spoken to investigators in Chongqing, the southwestern Chinese city where Heywood was killed and where Bo had cast himself as a crime-fighting Communist Party leader.
Reuters also describes the formerly close personal relationship between Heywood and Gu, who is said to have “grown distant” from her husband. More apparently leaked details came from The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore, who reported that Heywood had been found, before his hasty cremation, to have died of cyanide poisoning.
In recent weeks, to cement support for action against the Bos, the initial findings of the investigators have been circulated within the Communist party.
The report is believed to have been assembled from a “technical police file” that was handed over by Mr Wang [Lijun] to American diplomats.
Mr Heywood, an experienced China hand who advised Chinese and western businesses, was never given an official autopsy. His body was quickly cremated. But Mr Wang is believed to have gathered his own evidence in the 36 hours between the discovery of the body and the announcement of the death to the British authorities.
On Friday, Bloomberg highlighted the extensive global web of business interests built by Gu’s sisters:
Their wealth — and the fact they put some assets offshore where ownership is harder to trace — illustrate how the politically connected thrive in China, a country where Bo himself last month warned of the dangers of a rising wealth gap. While many of the country’s top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, have children who are top executives, the Gu sisters have left a paper trail that details some of their activities ….
While the extent of the wealth of China’s political elite is unknown, “the few figures available suggest the amounts are often staggering,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “It comes from the state being involved pervasively in the economy.”
“The wealth is generally not money they themselves have,” he said of Chinese government leaders. “It is money their families generate. The families of various members of the Politburo have very large assets.”