Bo suspected of ordering Briton's murder

BEIJING - Bo Xilai, a former Chongqing top official and rising political star, is suspected to have ordered the fatal poisoning of a British businessman that has sparked political upheaval in China, according to party sources.

Bo, 62, has been suspended from the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo in connection with the scandal.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly killing Neil Heywood, who died on Nov. 15 in a Chongqing hotel.

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and investigative authorities apparently have almost got to the bottom of what happened in the incident.

Investigators plan to probe whether Bo violated party protocol and will consider establishing a criminal case against him, according to the sources.

Heywood, who was a close friend of Bo and his wife, was initially thought to have died from excessive alcohol consumption.

On April 10, however, Chinese public security authorities announced Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, a servant at Bo's home, had conspired to murder the Briton.

They also said the party's inspection commission had launched a probe into Bo, on suspicion he had committed "serious discipline violations."

On the day the announcement was made, however, some top party officials in Beijing received a report from a related organization that indicated Heywood's murder had been carried out upon Bo's direct order, according to party sources.

Late last month, Xia Zeliang, secretary of Chongqing's Nanan District committee, was detained by investigative authorities. Xia, whom Bo appointed to the post in 2009, confessed to investigators that he had prepared poison to murder Heywood on Bo's instructions, the sources said.

Xia, 50, reportedly had handed about 30 million yuan (S$5.97mil) to Bo via Gu, according to the sources.

It is suspected that Bo wanted Heywood murdered because the Briton had become aware that Bo was money-laundering illegal income.

In China, political considerations often come first in the handling of criminal cases, according to observers.

President Hu Jintao will have to consider both party prestige and his regime's stability in his response to the matter, so many party members believe Bo might escape the murder charge.

"It's possible [the party will settle the problem] by putting the entire responsibility on Bo's wife and indicting Bo only on charges of hiding a criminal," a party source said.

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