Photo: Sky News Screenshot
Much suspicion has surrounded the death of British businessman Neil Heywood who was found dead in a Chongquing hotel room back in November.Official reports claim he died of alcohol poisoning, but friends say he wasn’t a heavy-drinker.
Moreover, his family was told he died of a heart-attack and his body was cremated without an autopsy.
In the following months Heywood’s death, in part, led to the defection of Chongquing police chief Wang Lijun and eventually the downfall of former Chongquing party chief Bo Xilai, who was today dismissed from the Politburo and the Central Committee.
Meanwhile, Bo’s wife Gu Kailai has been taken into custody on suspicion of ‘intentional homicide’.
But little is known about Heywood and his ties with Bo. Some suggest Bo had him done for having an affair with his wife, while others suspect that he had a business dispute with Gu.
Who was Neil Heywood?
Heywood was a long-time Chinese resident who favoured pale linen suits and spoke Mandarin. Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal reports that Heywood first met Bo through his wife Wang Lulu who hails from Dalian in the Liaoning province in Northeast China, where Bo served as Mayor between 1993 – 2000. Lulu it is reported had connections with Gu a prominent lawyer.
Heywood also had some other tenuous connections with Bo’s family. Heywood attended Harrow school in north-west London, where Bo’s son Bo Guaga also attended classes. He is said to have helped the younger Bo during his time at Papplewick, Harrow and later Balliol College, Oxford.
Heywood acted as a freelance consultant helping resolve business disputes and gaining access to government officials in China. He did some work for British advisory firm Hakluyt & Company founded by former officers with the British intelligence service MI6. Details of his work are not known, but Page suspects that he was involved in credit checks on Chinese companies, gathering business intelligence, and corporate investigations.
Heywood and his friend Christopher Boddington, an accountant at PriceWaterhouse Coopers ran a consultancy, Heywood Boddington Associates, according to The Telegraph. Through this firm they helped Manganese Bronze, makers of the black cab study the Chinese market. He is also said to have been a part-time dealer of Aston Martins and Rolls Royce.
Shady financial dealings and a possible affair
Some suspect that Bo had Heywood killed for having an affair with his wife Gu. China’s Boxun News (via Want China Times) alleges that Heywood was murdered by Che Keming, former director of China’s National Security Agency in Dalian.
But most reports suggest that Heywood was involved with sketchy financial dealings with Bo and his wife. Want China Times reports that Heywood acted as a “acted as a “white glove” for Bo’s money laundering activities and that he was a business consultant for a firm run by Bo’s wife.” And the WSJ’s Page had previously reported that Heywood feared for his life because he had fallen out with the wife of a senior Communist Party leader.
Heywood reportedly told friends that his relationship with Gu had disintegrated after Gu began to suspect that she had been betrayed by someone in the family’s inner circle. She had reportedly grown paranoid and erratic and asked Heywood to divorce his Chinese wife and swear an oath of loyalty and fallen out with him after he refused.
It remains unclear which way this investigation will turn. If Gu is found guilty of murder and if Bo is in anyway implicated in the crime they will likely be punished like a common Chinese citizen. But many argue that this has been nothing but a smear campaign aimed at destroying Bo’s credibility during China’s year of political transition.
Bo and his family have disappeared from public life since his dismissal. Heywood is survived by his widow and their two children.
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