Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun has allegedly told Communist Party investigators that the death of British businessman Neil Heywood may have been linked to a financial dispute with the wife of his former boss, ousted Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, according to a Reuters report. An anonymous source, said to be citing accounts from an unfinished central investigation, claimed that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, believed Heywood had misappropriated family funds and set out to “destroy” the businessman.
The reasons behind Wang’s attempted defection to the US in early February has led to a cascade of unconfirmed speculation, especially after Bo Xilai was sacked on March 15 amid rumors of corruption and conspiracy. Now a new inside source, presumably with access to an investigation into one or both of them carried out by authorities in Beijing, has provided what is believed to be Wang’s account of what transpired shortly before he sparked China’s biggest political scandal in years.
According to the source, about a week before his flight to the US consulate in Chengdu, Wang spoke to Bo regarding his suspicions that Gu may have been involved in the death of Neil Heywood, a British business consultant with long-standing links to the Bo family. Heywood died in a Chongqing hotel in November last year due to what authorities claimed to be “excessive alcohol consumption.” The death was not considered suspicious at the time, but the investigation has since been re-opened at the request of the British government.
“Wang Lijun has told central investigators that Gu Kailai turned on the British man because of economic interests and that she wanted to destroy him (Heywood),” Reuters reported the source as saying.
Wang alleged that Gu believed Heywood might have had access to family funds, the source said, and that he had misappropriated or taken some of the money therein. This coincides with a recent Wall Street Journal article in which it was reported that Heywood had told friends he feared for his safety after a falling out with Gu. According to the unnamed friend, Gu was convinced that someone in the family’s inner circle had betrayed them, and had asked for Heywood to divorce his Chinese wife and swear an oath of loyalty, a request he refused.
“(Wang) told Bo that the problem couldn’t be covered up,” said Reuter’s source, who added that he was unclear whether there was any truth in Wang’s assertions but said there was “no doubt” that Wang had spoken to Bo about his concerns.
At the time, government investigators were already looking into Wang’s past and he was concerned that Bo would sacrifice him in order to preserve his reputation and public bid for a prominent role in the party’s central leadership, the source said. Bo was outraged by the accusations about his wife, according to the source, leading to Wang’s demotion from his role as police chief and, eventually, his much-publicized flight to the US consulate, a step reportedly taken out of fear for his life.
Beijing has said it will release the results of its investigation into the Bo-Wang affiar, but so far no explanation has been provided. The central government has recently been reported to be trying to stamp out rumors that are snowballing on the internet.
Heywood’s family members told Reuters that they did not suspect foul play in his death, with one calling the rumors “preposterous.” They denied earlier reports that Heywood may have been a British spy and said they were not forced by the Chinese government to cremate his body. They also said Heywood had no business dealings with Bo’s family