Gu Kailai going down

In major political news, China has indicted Gu Kailai, wife of politician Bo Xilai, for the murder of a British businessman.

Reuters reports that Gu could face the death penalty if she’s found guilty. Her husband, long thought to be in line for another position on the nine-member Politburo when government power changes hands this year, has already been dismissed from office:

“The contentious dismissal of Bo has already shaken the Communist Party’s looming once-in-a-decade succession, and now Gu and family aide Zhang Xiaojun will be prosecuted for allegedly poisoning businessman Neil Heywood last year over ‘conflict of economic interests’, the official Xinhua news agency said.

‘The facts of the two defendants’ crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial,’ said the Xinhua report summarizing the indictment. ‘Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide.’

Gu and Zhang will face trial in Hefei, a city in eastern China, far from Chongqing, the sprawling municipality in the southwest where Bo made his political base and where Heywood died in a hillside hotel in November.

Bo has not been named as a suspect in the murder case, but he is separately under investigation by party authorities and could also face trial at a later time.”

The New York Times revealed more details about Bo’s stunning fall from grace:

“Although it repeated earlier accusations that tied the murder of Mr. Heywood to ‘a conflict over economic interests,’ the announcement added two fresh details: it confirmed that Mr. Heywood had been poisoned and it said that Ms. Gu committed the crime to protect her son, Bo Guagua, currently a graduate student at Harvard. The article made a point of omitting Mr. Bo’s full name, suggesting that prosecutors have decided not to implicate him in the crime.

The relationship between Mr. Heywood and one of China’s most fabled political families remains murky, but friends say a decade ago he helped arrange private schooling in Britain for younger Mr. Bo. Those with knowledge of the party’s investigation say he was also involved in helping the family transfer overseas illicit funds that may have involved billions of dollars.”

No trial date has been set.

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