Jul 31, 2013

    More than meets the eye to Bo Xilai graft charges

    CORRUPTION charges against disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai will date back to an earlier stage of his career, reports said yesterday - a narrow focus that could help contain political fallout from the case.

    The downfall of Bo - who ran the megacity of Chongqing and sat on the ruling Communist Party's 25-member Politburo - marked China's biggest political scandal in decades.

    His glittering career came crashing down amid allegations that his wife was involved in the death of a British businessman, and that he had sought to block the police investigation. She has been convicted of murder.

    Bo was indicted last week for embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power, over a year after the scandal broke, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

    But, according to a report yesterday from the respected current-affairs magazine Caijing, the 25-million-yuan (S$5-million) corruption charges against him stem from his time running the smaller city of Dalian in the 1990s, not Chongqing. It did not cite a source.

    Analysts say that, given the length of Bo's career and the high positions he had reached, it seemed implausible that corruption would have been a factor only when he was in his earlier, less-powerful posts.

    "When he was in Dalian, he was able to take 25 million (yuan), could he possibly have stopped?" said China politics expert Steve Tsang of the University of Nottingham. But minimising the scope of charges avoided implicating others, exposing too much high-level corruption or requiring a tougher sentence, he added.

    "They want to make sure the Bo Xilai case can be managed in a way that is least damaging to the party," Dr Tsang said.