Gu Kailai delivered a series of blows against her husband, Bo Xilai, during his corruption trial on Friday, as the former Chinese politician became submerged by a deluge of evidence. Bo, who was until two years ago one of the most powerful men in China, bullishly dismantled many of the accusations against him on the opening day of his trial on Thursday.
However, his wife, who had not been seen for a year, returned to haunt him via video screen and written statements. Gu, 54, who was sentenced last August for the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood that led to the downfall of her husband, gave an 11-minute testimony that could prove key to the prosecution's case of corruption and abuse of power. Bo, 64, faces claims that he knew that millions of pounds were funnelled to his family by the billionaire entrepreneur Xu Ming.
"Did you tell Bo Xilai about the money or not?" Gu was asked. "Yes," she replied. Bo, who has claimed he was oblivious to the vast sums spent by his family, tried to disqualify his wife's testimony. "How credible can she be? Bo Gu Kailai has changed, she is crazy, she always tells lies. She made her confessions when she was mentally ill and under severe pressure from investigators," he said. The court was treated to statement after statement confirming that Mr Bo was a full participant in his family's expensive lifestyle.
One handwritten statement from Gu suggested that Mr Bo, despite his denials, was well aware that Xu had paid for his 25-year-old son Guagua to visit Africa in August 2011, flying by private jet from Dubai to the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. "Bo Xilai asked if it was safe for Guagua to go, and I said Xu Ming had made all the arrangements, so he stopped worrying," said Gu. "When he came back, Guagua brought presents. He brought Bo Xilai a big piece of meat from a rare animal. Guagua said we could eat it raw but Bo said we needed to steam it. Guagua said it was very expensive, he was angry that it would be ruined. But we steamed it and all ate it and it tasted pretty good. We ate it for a month."
Xu advanced more than pounds 420,000 to the family over eight years for flights and hotel bills. As well as his African adventure, Guagua visited Cuba, France, Argentina and went to the World Cup in Germany in 2006, always travelling first class. "I can say with absolute certainty that I know nothing about flight tickets, hotels, travel or Africa," Bo responded.
For the first time, the court also heard details of the events that led to the death of Heywood, and the motive for his killing. Gu, who had bought a 2 million pounds house in the hills overlooking Cannes in 2000 through a shell company, transferred her half-share of ownership to Heywood in 2007. She wanted to make sure the property, again paid for by Mr Xu, could not be linked to her husband, whose political career was reaching its peak. "I was still the real owner but I put it in Heywood's name," she said. "I did not want it to cause any impact on Gua's father." However, she grew frustrated with the low rental income of the house and in 2011 wanted to take it back from Heywood.
The Briton demanded 1.4 million pounds in compensation. "He said if his demand was not met, he would expose everything," said Patrick Devillers, another of Gu's inner circle. Heywood then began, according to Gu, to threaten her son. This, she said, prompted her to take decisive action to kill Heywood in November 2011.
Bo was able to dodge questions about the French villa on the first day of his trial, but a statement from Wang Lijun, his former police chief in the city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief, suggested that he was not only aware of it, but discussed its management with him as Gu's relationship with Devillers and Heywood spiralled out of control. The trial continues.