On the first day of his long-awaited corruption trial, former top Chinese official Bo Xilai denied that he accepted $3.5 million in bribes in exchange for government favors.
The trial in the Intermediate People’s Court of Jinan, in China’s Shandong province, was closed to foreign reporters, with only a selected number of local reporters allowed to attend the hearings. But the court provided information about the proceedings via its Weibo micro-blog feed.
Bo denied the first charge on the indictment of receiving three bribes totalling $180,000 from property developer Tang Xiaolin. “That did not happen,” he said, claiming that any assistance he provided Tang in winning approval for a major real estate project in Dalian was “all done according to procedure.”
Prosecutors read from a confession Bo wrote in 2012, in which he said he accepted cash from Tang because the payments were made “in gratitude” for Bo’s support of a major project. Bo responded that he was “under improper pressure” at the time of writing.
During the afternoon session, Bo also denied taking bribes of $3.37 million from Xu Ming, the former chairman of Dalian Shide Group, in exchange for myriad government contracts dating back to the 1990s, when Bo was mayor of Dalian.
According to prosecutors, Xu lavishly supported Bo’s son Bo Guagua his wife Gu Kailai during the former’s education in the U.K., including covering tuition at Harrow School and Oxford University. Xu also allegedly gave the family a villa on the French Rivera worth $3.2 million.
At trial, however, Bo said he had no knowledge about either Xu’s largesse, claiming Xu was “no friend of his.”
Bo also dismissed previous testimony by his wife at her trial last year for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu had said she and Bo had kept thousands of dollars in a safe in their Dalian apartment, but Bo said this was “ridiculous and laughable.”
Despite his defiant tone, Bo’s conviction on the corruption charges is generally considered a foregone conclusion, as Chinese courts are firmly under the party’s control.
Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng, litigation partners at Beijing-based DeHeng Law Offices, represented Bo at trial, which is expected to conclude tomorrow.