Authorities in Cambodia say there are no plans to extradite French national Patrick Devillers, whom China has said is a suspect in the murder of Briton Neil Heywood last November, as reports said the wife of ousted Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai has “confessed” to Heywood’s murder.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on Friday that Devillers, who has been detained in Phnom Penh, where he lives with his Cambodian partner and child, will not be extradited to any country.
In the latest twist in the scandal engulfing China’s ruling Communist Party, he said however that Devillers, 52, whose whereabouts are unknown, would remain in custody pending further investigation.
Devillers had close business ties with deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, who is a key suspect in the Heywood murder investigation.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia has already made decision to keep this French national in Cambodia. The decision was already made. [We are] not sending him to France or to China,” Hor Namhong told reporters in Phnom Penh.
Asked why Devillers was detained, he said, “We don’t know the reason, we are waiting for further investigation.”
China has boosted its influence in Cambodia in recent years, giving out hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of aid, loans, and investment.
The head of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, He Guoqiang, who is in charge of investigations into alleged “serious violations” of discipline by Bo and his former police chief Wang Lijun, visited Cambodia for three days last week.
No details have been made public about that investigation, nor about the police investigation in which Gu is a suspect.
But Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted informed sources as saying that Gu, who is being held in a government-affiliated facility in northern China, had “confessed” to Heywood’s murder.
The paper said Gu, 53, had told investigators she killed Heywood to stop him revealing illegal remittances of billions of dollars abroad that she said he had helped to organize for her.
Heywood, 41, was discovered dead in a Chongqing hotel in November, and quickly cremated after his death was blamed on a drinking binge.
The paper said that Gu had also begun admitting to allegations of bribe-taking and the cross-border remittances.
Devillers is apparently being detained under the terms of Cambodia’s extradition treaty with China, which permits the authorities to detain him for up to 60 days while China gathers evidence to support its request.
Sources familiar with Devillers when he lived in China last month said he entered Bo’s inner circle while living in Dalian in the 1990s and the Frenchman received help from then-mayor Bo in chasing up an unpaid debt for architectural work, Reuters reported.
Devillers and Gu gave the same residential address when they set up a British company in 2000 in the resort town of Bournemouth and an investment firm registered by Devillers in 2006 in Luxembourg listed the Beijing address of the Ang Dao Law Firm – a firm affiliated with Gu, the agency said.
China’s Internet censors continued to block and filter news of the Bo Xilai scandal, with searches for “Bo” in Chinese and English on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service producing the message: “In accordance with local laws and regulations, we have been unable to display your search results.”
Threads which mentioned the scandal also showed messages in which certain comments had been deleted “in accordance with local rules and regulations.”
However, some netizens managed to post comments that referred cryptically to Chongqing as “Hotpot City,” based on the fiery dish native to southwestern China.
“Recent events in Hotpot City have been more entertaining than a TV soap,” commented user @Yunanw.
User @shanglue agreed: “Politics, love, murder,” the user wrote. “It’s a great plot.”
Reported by Wei Ling for RFA’s Cantonese service. Additional reporting and translation by Luisetta Mudie.