x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Neil Heywood may have threatened to expose Gu Kailai financial scheme

British businessman may have been killed because he fell out with the wife of a former Communist Party boss over plans to transfer large sums of money abroad, unconfirmed reports say.

BEIJING // The British businessman found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing in November may have been killed because he fell out with the wife of a former Communist Party boss over plans to transfer large sums of money abroad, unconfirmed reports said yesterday.

Gu Kailai, wife of the former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, had a disagreement with Neil Heywood because he asked for a bigger cut of the money, according to sources quoted by Reuters.

The report quotes sources with "close ties to Chinese police" as saying Ms Gu ordered Heywood's murder after he threatened to expose the financial scheme, set up to circumvent limits on Chinese people transferring cash abroad.

If the plans had been revealed, they would have proved embarrassing to Mr Bo at a time when he was hoping for promotion to China's nine-member politburo standing committee.

In one of the biggest political scandals to hit China in decades, Mr Bo last week was suspended as a member of China's 25-member politburo and his wife placed under investigation over Heywood's death.

The 41-year-old Heywood had long-standing ties with Mr Bo and Ms Gu and attended the same elite private British school, Harrow, as their son, Bo Guagua.

Yesterday's report said Heywood is thought to have died at Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, a hilltop retreat in Chongqing, the south-western municipality where Mr Bo attracted international attention for a campaign of communist nostalgia and an uncompromising crackdown on organised crime.

Mr Bo's police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February and, it is believed, passed on information that linked Ms Gu to Heywood's death.

On announcing Mr Bo's removal from the politburo, the Communist Party accused the 62-year-old of "serious disciplinary violations" amid allegations he tried to stifle an investigation into his wife's links to the case.

Heywood died after being poisoned with a cyanide compound, according to a separate report yesterday in The Daily Telegraph.

The unverified allegation is based on comments from an unnamed source in Chongqing who has read an investigation report prepared for Communist Party officials.

Mr Bo has not been seen publicly since shortly before his removal as Chongqing party chief, while his wife has been arrested along with a family servant, Zhang Xiaojun, also suspected of complicity in the killing.

dbardsley@thenational.ae