Beijing: Fallen political star Bo Xilai has been formally charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power, more than a year after he was stood down as Chongqing's party chief over the scandal stemming from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Official news agency Xinhua said prosecutors in the eastern city of Jinan in Shandong province had indicted Mr Bo on Thursday, confirming mounting speculation that his trial was drawing near.
Bo Xilai charged in ongoing corruption scandal
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Bo Xilai charged in ongoing corruption scandal
China correspondent Philip Wen charts the downfall of former Communist Party star Bo Xilai, who has been charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
That speculation arose from an internal document circulating in Chongqing, which outlined charges of Mr Bo receiving millions of yuans of bribes via his wife, Gu Kailai.
The trial will take place in Jinan's Intermediate People's Court. A date has yet to be set, but numerous reports indicate it will be held within the next month, and as soon as next week.
"The trial will be open anytime within the next two months," Li Xiaolin, a lawyer with close ties to Gu Kailai, told Fairfax Media.
Chinese law says the charges must be served to the defendant and any legal representatives at least 10 days before the start of the first court session.
Mr Bo was removed in March last year from his senior post as party chief of Chongqing, a municipality of 30 million in southwest China. He was later expelled from the Communist Party and its elite 25-member Politburo.
Former magazine editor and political commentator Li Weidong said the formal announcement of the charges indicated Xi Jinping, who formally took power as president in March, now felt comfortable enough as leader to consolidate his power and continue to marginalise Mr Bo’s fading support base.
“Xi's taken power for half a year and they feel the general situation has settled down,” Mr Li said. “They may have reached consensus, and are basically trying to depoliticise Bo's case.
‘‘They may well have reached agreement with Bo himself. Unless they had worked out this simultaneous lip-synch, the trial would never open.”
The ruling Communist Party is seeking to shore up its legitimacy by stamping out corruption and reining in the opulent lifestyles of party officials.
An investigation by Bloomberg revealed the extended families of Mr Bo and his wife had built a fortune of more than $US136 million.
Mr Bo was also able to provide for his son Bo Guagua’s expensive private schooling in the United Kingdom, despite his ostensibly humble official salary.
Mr Bo's wife Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for murdering Mr Heywood, a long-time associate of the Bo family.
Mr Bo's upcoming trial is widely expected to be no more than a show trial
The case came to light when Mr Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun, fearing for his life, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu armed with details of Mr Heywood’s murder, a dramatic defection that shook Chinese elite politics to its core at a delicate time of the party’s leadership transition to current president Xi Jinping.
Mr Wang was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison in September for initially covering up the murder in a closed trial.
Like those of his wife, Mr Bo's upcoming trial is widely expected to be no more than a show trial, in which a verdict has already been painstakingly negotiated by Communist Party leaders.
He is expected to receive at least between 15 to 20 years jail, with a possible suspended death sentence.
A so-called princeling, Mr Bo is the son of Bo Yibo, one of the founding revolutionary leaders of the People’s Republic of China.
He rose to prominence for a series of attention-grabbing moves in Chongqing to revive red songs from the era of Mao Zedong.
Mr Bo’s law and order platform, personified by his “da hei” crackdown on organised crime won hearts and minds, but increasingly became tainted by numerous stories of police brutality and arbitrary jail sentences and asset seizures.
Mr Bo is the first Politburo member to be tried on criminal charges since 2008, when former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu was sentenced to 18 years jail for corruption.
In an indication he will not be let off lightly, the state-run broadcaster CCTV said as a “state government employee” Bo Xilai took advantage of his post by illegally embezzling public funds and taking a particularly large amount of money and property from others. It said the abuse of power led to huge loss to the state and that Mr Bo must be subject to punishment.
with Sanghee Liu