Frenchman goes to China as witness in Bo case: Cambodia

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 18, 2012 9:58 AM
Frenchman goes to China as witness in Bo case: Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Frenchman who was being held in Cambodia because of his alleged links to China's biggest political scandal in two decades has been flown to China, where he is wanted as a witness in the case, Cambodia's information minister said on Wednesday.

Patrick Henri Devillers, 52, was detained last month in Cambodia, where he had been living for several years. He was held at the behest of China because of his suspected business links to the wife of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told reporters that Devillers, an architect, had taken a flight from Cambodia to China late on Tuesday and that he had left of his own free will, without an escort from the French embassy.

"He voluntarily went as a witness," he said, adding that China had given an assurance that Devillers would only be required for up to 60 days before being allowed to return.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, has been named by China as a suspect in the murder last November of British businessman Neil Heywood. Both Heywood and Devillers were known to be close to her.

Devillers has lived in Cambodia for at least five years, according to friends. He entered Bo's inner circle while living in Dalian in the 1990s when Bo, who was mayor of the city at the time, helped him to chase up an unpaid debt.

China has not said publicly whether Devillers himself is accused of any crime. Bo was stripped of his post as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing in southwest China in March.

Cambodia is a close ally of China, which is a big aid donor and investor in the Southeast Asian country.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Martin Petty and Mark Bendeich)