Chinese authorities are expected to issue formal charges against ousted politician Bo Xilai as early as this week, according to a person familiar with the case, bringing the Communist Party leadership closer to the conclusion of an embarrassing political scandal.
Bo, the former party boss of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, was expelled from the party in September and accused of massive corruption, illicit sexual affairs and abetting the cover-up of a murder by his wife.
The investigation into Bo’s case has been “making progress” and prosecutors in the eastern city of Jinan are likely to file an indictment against him that will be announced within days, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the high-profile, political nature of the case.
Bo’s ouster in the spring of last year and the investigation into his family presented the Communist Party leadership with its ugliest public scandal in nearly two decades. It exposed the bare-knuckled infighting that the secretive leadership prefers to hide and affirmed an already skeptical public’s dim view about corrupt dealings in the party.
A Hong Kong newspaper, the South China Morning Post, reported Wednesday that the charges Bo will likely face are bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. The paper said officials in Chongqing were briefed on the details of the case in internal meetings Tuesday, and cited unidentified sources with knowledge of the meetings.
The charges against Bo were verified by Li Zhuang, a lawyer famed for trying to defend a mafia boss in Chongqing during an organized crime crackdown, who said he had the same information from his sources in that city.
Another Hong Kong newspaper, the Ta Kung Pao, which is backed by the Communist Party, reported similar details early Wednesday, although the article vanished from the paper’s website within a few hours. The paper also said Bo was accused of bribery and embezzlement amounting to 25 million yuan ($4 million).
Some media reports have said Bo’s trial could start as early as this week, but many legal experts dismissed such reports as erroneous because the former official has not been formally indicted yet.
Calls to prosecutors and the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Jinan rang unanswered Wednesday, while officials in Chongqing’s government and party offices either could not be reached by phone or said they had no information on the case.
The allegations leveled against Bo in September dated back more than a decade, including abuse of power, bribe taking and improper relations with several women ?banned by the party because they are considered an inducement to corruption.
Bo was also accused of involvement in the cover-up of his wife’s murder of a British businessman, which was instrumental in triggering his downfall.
One of China’s most ambitious and best-known politicians, Bo was brought down last year after a trusted aide fled to a U.S. consulate disclosing the murder.
Bo was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing; his wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence after confessing to the murder; and the aide, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, received a 15-year prison term for initially covering up the murder and other misdeeds.
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