BEIJING – During a video appearance Friday at the trial of Bo Xilai, China’s ousted political star, evidence was heard from Gu Kailai, his wife who herself has been convicted of murder, describing telling her husband of a series of bribes.
The pre-recorded appearance by a nervous-looking Gu came a day after a fiery Bo said her claims against him were “laughable,” enlivening a trial that has gripped a country unfamiliar with the public airing of top-level intrigue.
Gu was once a high-flying lawyer but was convicted last year of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, whose death sparked the corruption scandal that brought Bo down, in advance of a generational shift of power atop the Communist Party.
She looked thin and pale during questioning, recorded earlier this month. It was played in court the day after Bo pleaded ignorance to her dealings, and released by the court on Chinese social media, where it had more than 1 million views in an hour.
Asked if Bo knew about airline tickets and other items provided by business tycoon Xu Ming — who prosecutors said had bribed him to the tune of 20.7 million yuan ($3.4 million) — Gu at first said “he should have been aware.”
Pressed by the questioner, she said, “I told him.”
Bo, once one of China’s highest-flying politicians, faces charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power which emerged after the lurid scandal triggered by the death of Heywood.
“The court has resumed its investigation of the facts of defendant Bo Xilai’s bribery as outlined by the prosecution,” the court in Jinan said on its verified account on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
Bo presented an unexpectedly spirited defense against bribery charges as the trial began Thursday, comparing one witness, businessman Tang Xiaolin, to a “mad dog” who appeared to have “sold his soul.”
But the regular updates that the court provided Thursday were conspicuous by their absence on Friday morning, despite state-run media proclaiming the proceedings a mark of transparency.
State broadcaster CCTV on Friday released video of one of the most dramatic moments, when Bo cross-examined Xu Ming.
In a colorful exchange — which touched on a football club, a hot air balloon and the purchase of a French villa — Bo argued that Xu had not made him aware of the transactions.
Bo’s populist politics won supporters across China but alienated top party leaders who saw his brash approach as a return to a bygone era of strongman rule.
Backroom political discussions ahead of the trial have ensured that a guilty verdict from the court is almost certain, with a lengthy prison sentence likely to follow, analysts say.