The Chinese police chief at the center of the biggest political scandal to engulf the Chinese Communist Party in decades has been charged with defection, power abuse and taking bribes, state media said on Wednesday.
The charges against Wang Lijun (王立軍), the former Chongqing police chief and right hand man of disgraced politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來), come after he fled to a US consulate in February, reportedly seeking asylum.
He was also charged with “bending the law for selfish ends,” Xinhua news agency said.
The news agency quoted an indictment which said Wang had “known beforehand” that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), was under “serious suspicion” of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, without taking action.
Gu was handed a suspended death sentence last month for Heywood’s murder.
“He consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain so that Gu Kailai would not be held legally responsible,” the indictment said, according to Xinhua.
“While he was performing his official duty, [he] left his post without authorization and defected to the United States Consulate General,” it added.
Bo had been widely expected to ascend to the all-powerful Politburo later this year until he was ousted over the scandal.
He is currently under investigation for “serious discipline violations” — party code for corruption.
Wang reportedly confronted Bo with information relating to the murder of Heywood before fleeing to the US consulate in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, where he spoke with US officials for several hours.
Security forces surrounded the consulate and Wang was subsequently handed over to Chinese custody, but the incident triggered the rapid unraveling of Bo’s fortunes and those of his family.
The charges against Wang were filed at the People’s Procuratorate of Chengdu City, Xinhua said.
It is unclear at this stage whether Wang will face trial at the court or when the trial will be.
Xinhua said the “prosecuting body informed the defendant of his right to retain defence counsel” during the investigation.
“The prosecuting body also interrogated the defendant, heard the opinions of the defense counsel and examined all the case files,” it added.
Wang’s charges drag back into the spotlight a scandal that analysts say has exposed deep divisions within the Communist Party ahead of a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition due to take place later this year.
They come a week after it emerged that French architect Patrick Devillers who was questioned in China as part of the investigation had returned to Cambodia.