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Corruption, intrigues and power games in modern China – Part II

By M. S. Shah Jahan

It was 14 November 2011. Neil Heywood, a Beijing resident, arrived in the fog shrouded Chongqing and checked into Sheraton Hotel, as he was summoned on short notice for a meeting in Chongqing with representatives of the family of Bo Xilai, the local Communist Party chief.

Bo Xilai, the party chief of Chongqing, attends the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China, March 3, 2012-AP pic-courtesy: VOA News

He tried to telephone his usual contacts in Chongqing but couldn’t get through to any of them. Heywood was left waiting alone in his hotel room for instructions. He became nervous and sensed that something was amiss. He called and told an English friend he was “in trouble”.

Last couple of months, Heywood grew increasingly nervous, warning some friends and business contacts not to discuss sensitive matters over email or by telephone. He began to smoke more, lost much of his hair and put on weight.He said friends he was planning to leave China next year as he was under “intolerable pressure” from the Bo family.

What happened in Chongqing afterwards remains a mystery. That was the end of the “TITANIC” – Neil Heywood.

Hey wood’s dead body was found in one of the ten private villas of secluded Nanshan Lijing Resort Hotel, eight miles outside the metropolis, atop a forest-covered mountain. It is a three star hotel also known as the Lucky Holiday Hotel. But this state hotel has brought bad luck to two of its important guests.

Heywood spent his last days in Chongqing’s Nan’an district, an area politically loyal to Bo, and stayed in two hotels: Sheraton and the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel. The staffs in both hotels said they knew nothing of a British man dying there. The hotel has a six-floor main building, ten villas in three rows and crucially several CCTV cameras, which might have captured Heywood’s final moments.

Nanshan Lijing’s US $ 1000 a night villas, which boast marble floors and chandeliers, and an eccentric mix of Chinese and European furniture, was the favored location from which Gu Kailai , wife of Bo Xilai, ruthlessly wielded her power. It was here she held secret meetings, that struck multi-million Yuan deals, with shady generals and corrupt Chinese officials, and hosted exclusive dinner parties and private lunches.

Richard Cao, chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce in China, said: ‘It was at the Nanshan Hotel that a deputy police chief tried to gatecrash a private dinner party Gu was holding. ‘He arrived drunk and got upset because Gu’s bodyguards would not allow him to the restaurant. Despite his rank, she had him sacked.’

In another incident, when a group of off-duty police officers – noisy diners, eating in the restaurant ignored Gu’s request to be quiet, furious Gu summoned the same defected police chief, Wang Lijun. Minutes later, Wang arrived and stormed into the restaurant brandishing his pistol and threatening the rowdy eaters. All were sacked.

Wang, 52, is an ethnic Mongolian. His father was a railway worker and his mother a textile worker. He boxed as a teen, served in the People’s Liberation Army for three years and worked as a forestry official before joining police in 1984

His crime crackdown in the northeast town of Tieling won him national acclaim. Zhou Lijun, a screenwriter, spent 10 days with Wang in Tieling in 1996 and worked on a screenplay for a TV series about his exploits called ‘Iron Blooded Police Spirits’.

Bo brought Wang to lead a crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing after he became the city’s Communist Party chief in 2007. The two men became very close.

Wang had a flair for the dramatic. He would drive to crime scenes in a Mitsubishi jeep modified to carry a double rack of lights on its roof so the locals would know ‘Chief Wang’ was on the case. He would leap atop the car, draw his gun and fire shots in the air after arriving on the scene.

On a night raid of hair salons thought to be fronts for prostitution, Wang rushed into one and threw a young man with dyed yellow hair to the ground. After a police search for evidence yielded nothing, he told them to take the youth to the police station, saying, ‘A man with hair like that can’t be any good’.

Wang’s dragnet led to the city’s former justice chief and deputy police chief, Wen Qiang, who was found to have buried $3 million under a fish pond, during the crackdown, was executed in 2010 under allegation of protecting gangs, accepting bribes, rape and property scams. Wang also jailed dozens of policemen and defence lawyers in the name of cracking down on organized crime.

As Wang’s crime crackdown grew, the campaign created enemies in the rank and file, as well as in leadership circles. He wore a bullet-proof vest after gangs put out a hit order on him.

Central government anti-graft investigators began looking into accusations in 2011 that Wang accepted bribe and promoted a subordinate when he was police chief of Tieling from 2000 to 2003. Wang became anxious and sought help.

Wang was extensively involved in bugging and surveillance using sophisticated equipment acquired as part of Chongqing’s campaign against organised crime, and also used those capabilities to monitor Bo and those around him

In last August when Hu Jintao, China’s top leader, picked up the telephone to talk to a senior anticorruption official visiting Chongqing, special devices detected that he was being wiretapped by local officials in Chongqing. The higher echelon saw it as a direct challenge to the central authorities and their watchful eye turned harder on Bo, Wang and Chongqing since then.

Wang was thunder struck when Gu shouted “I did it” “I did it” “I did it” thrice emotionally. He told the American diplomats that she confessed to him that she was in the hotel room during the ‘gruesome’ poisoning. Heywood was held down and forced to drink the cyanide. He spat the cyanide out and they had to give him more.’

It is alleged that Bo couple was involved in a series of murders and earned nearly £100million in bribes and also transferred over £ 1 billion through Heywood to overseas.

Did handsome Neil Heywood have a romantic affair with Gu Kailai?

Yes they are said to have an affair due to her husband’s ‘lack of passion’. Chinese websites first claimed they were both in love. ‘There was a ‘definite’ romantic attachment between Heywood and Gu’, said Wang Kang, a Chongqing scholar with contacts inside Bo’s circle. He alleged that Gu, a lawyer, found solace in him as she was denied a normal passion’ from her husband. Gu also confessed to Wang having had an affair with Heywood due to her husband’s ‘lack of passion’.

Gu Kailai went to Britain in 2001 and bought a top-floor terrace apartment in Keystone House near the Bournemouth seafront for £250,000.She floated a company Adad Ltd with one Patrick Henri Devillers, a French architect and another white member of Bo’s circle, and had her business card under the name Horus Kai, the name Gu used in her foreign business dealings.

The ‘shell’ firm – one that did not do any business or have any assets -never filed accounts. Gu despite being a high-flying lawyer in China with links to American law firms, never practiced in London. It was later dissolved in 2003 without any money having passed through its accounts. It is thought that Gu may have set up Adad Ltd to give herself an official British base and an air of respectability.

Heywood is also believed to have stayed with Gu in Keystone House. It was their apparent love nest. He was ‘seen pinching the bottom of Gu Kailai on way up to the flat’.

‘He stayed in the first room on the right. Most mornings he was lean out of the window having a fag. She was always in the kitchen’ a source said. The powerful Chinese politician’s wife was the young British business man’s mistress. Well he was sleeping with a big Chinese fish or dragon that finally showed her character.

Heywood’s falling-out with Gu followed a period in which she had grown distant from her ambitious, perpetually busy husband and she had turned to Heywood as a soul mate.

“Bo and Gu Kailai had not been a proper husband and wife for years … Gu Kailai and Heywood had a deep personal relationship and she took the break between them deeply to heart,” said Wang Kang, a well-connected Chongqing businessman who has learned some details of the case from Chinese officials.

An early theory put forward into Heywood’s death suggested he was killed after Bo found out the affair. Heywood was said to have confided in a friend about the alleged affair with Gu, saying it had ‘left his life under threat’. He said he later called off the relationship as Gu was becoming increasingly paranoid.

Two days after Heywood’s death Gu met Heywood’s widow Wang Lulu in a Beijing cafe, accompanied by two armed policemen, and begged LuLu to agree to a swift cremation without a post-mortem examination. His corpse was taken hastily to the municipal crematorium and unceremoniously burned. His ashes were later handed to his family in an urn.

Police investigating the murder have made dozens of arrests, including that of billionaire Xu Ming, one of China’s richest men, and a city official, Xia Deliang, who confessed that he prepared the poison and handed it to an employee of Bo.

The government is trying to locate the massive foreign assets held by glamorous Gu Kailai and her family members. Gu is in police custody and Bo is stripped of all political posts and under house arrest.

Hong Kong Standard claimed that Gu has terminal bone cancer and only ‘a year or two’ to live. So she became increasingly flirtatious and ‘promiscuous’. Her mentality was ‘you betrayed me, and so I’ll get my revenge. If convicted Gu will get death sentence.

Ann Heywood, 74-year-old mother of Neil who lives in south London, said the news had come as a total shock and she was horrified to hear that her son may have been murdered.

“All I want to say is that I am shocked at the news, but I cannot talk any more. It is heartbreaking to even think there was foul play involved. I went to China often to see him. I still do see my daughter-in-law and grandchildren, and they were always very happy.”

Hey wood’ widow, Wang Lulu, remains at the family’s exclusive gated villa compound in Beijing with her children aged seven and 11, who hold British passports. She is preparing to leave China for good to Briton as she is afraid that the people who killed her husband might now come after her and her children.

Mahatma Gandhi said : ‘Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle.’

Heywood’s grey Jaguar with Union Jack sticker and license plate ‘N007W3’ that indicates his passion for 007 James Bond movies, idles in the compound untouched. But where is the owner? Should James Bond come?

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