Former politician's wife accused of murder

Chinese prosecutors are charging the wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai and a family aide with the murder of a British businessman.

Chinese prosecutors are charging the wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai and a family aide with the murder of a British businessman.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported today that the recently issued indictment said Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, had a falling out with Briton Neil Heywood and worried that it would threaten her and their son's safety.

The report says that Gu and the aide Zhang Xiaojun are alleged to have poisoned Heywood together.

Heywood died in November. His death was attributed initially to a heart attack or excessive drinking.

They were charged in the eastern city of Hefei, Xinhua said. It did not say when exactly the indictment was issued or when the crime occurred and why the case is being prosecuted in Hefei and not in Chongqing, the metropolis Bo ran as Communist party secretary and where the couple lived.

Prosecutors have interrogated Bo and Zhang and have "heard the opinions" of their defence lawyers, Xinhua said.

The brief report is the first official news that the case against Gu is proceeding since the announcement three months ago that she and Zhang were being investigated and that Bo was being suspended from the powerful Politburo for unspecified discipline violations.

The Xinhua report did not mention Bo's case or a separate party investigation into Bo.

The scandal exposed the infighting that the secretive leadership prefers to hide and affirmed an already sceptical public's dim view about corrupt dealings in the party.

Before his ouster, Bo was one of China's most powerful and charismatic politicians.

The son of a revolutionary veteran, Bo was seen as a leading candidate for a position in the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest ranks of power, when a younger group of leaders is installed later this year.

On his rise, Bo led high-profile campaigns to bust organised crime and to promote communist culture. In doing so, however, his administration's record on civil liberties angered some leaders.

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