Disgraced Chinese leader Bo Xilai on Saturday said he had not acted to stop the embezzlement of government funds by his wife, the first time he has admitted to any of the charges against him since his trial began two days ago.
Admitting some responsibility for his wife's actions, he told the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Shandong province, "I am ashamed of it. I was too careless, because this is public money. I failed to retrieve the money later, and that's a factual statement, but can you say I had the intention to embezzle the money? No," he said.
Bo also admitted to his role in coercing a top police official, who feared reprisals from the disgraced Communist Party leader for acting against his wife in the murder of her British business partner. Rejecting most allegations of bribery and embezzlement against him, he said he was ready to assume "partial responsibility" for Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun's attempted defection to the United States consulate in Chengdu in February last year.
He admitted slapping Wang when the two had differences over the police chief's investigation of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood planned by his wife Gu Kailai.
This is the first time since the high-profile trial began that Bo, who has been accused of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, has admitted to any of the charges. He has rejected all corruption charges against him, including embezzlement of over $ 4 million and owning a villa in France.
Bo was confronted on Saturday with the testimonies of Gu and Wang, who are serving prison terms. Wang, who personally testified against Bo, blamed the former Communist Party leader for his attempted defection. He sought refuge in the US mission as Bo, who headed the Chongqing city administration, was furious over investigations into the role of his wife Gu.
The testimonies turned out to be deeply embarrassing for Bo as Wang was regarded as his closest aide until the two fell out over the murder probe.
Gu admitted to the murder of Heywood, a middleman for Bo's family, and was sentenced to death with a two-year reprove this year. Wang was sentenced to 15 years for going to the US consulate to seek asylum.
The court is posting transcripts of the hearings on its account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, but no live audio or video is available. Foreign media and independent observers are not present in the courtroom.
Heywood was believed to have died of excessive drinking until Wang's defection to the US consulate blew the lid off the case and exposed Bo's role. Wang was persuaded to come out of the US consulate by the then central government headed by previous President Hu Jintao, which assured it would protect him.
Once out, he spilled the beans against Bo and Gu, ending their dominance in the ruling Communist Party along with Bo's ambitions to contest for the top party post. Bo was regarded as a hardline leader trying to revive the discarded Maoist ideology by his party, opposing the reform process.
Wang's defection helped the reformists headed by Hu to stamp out Bo and his loyalists by removing them from the party. Bo was subsequently sacked from all party posts and arrested for a host of charges.
While admitting slapping Wang, Bo at the same time denied abusing his powers as Chongqing party secretary to protect Gu or to provide false evidence by forging a medical certificate. Bo said that he dismissed Wang as police chief on February 2, 2012 as he was furious about Wang because "Gu convinced me she didn't murder Heywood," who was reported to be a conduit for the family to shift their ill-gotten wealth abroad.
Bo said, he assumed Wang was framing Gu and slapped him in front of other officials and that Gu was furious when Bo confronted her with allegations of her involvement in Heywood's death.
Gu reportedly said that Wang was framing her and showed Bo, Heywood's death certificate, which stated that he died of a heart attack brought on by excessive alcohol consumption. Bo also told the court that Gu reacted angrily when she learnt about an extramarital affair he had in the late 1990s.
The trial provides an insight into the secretive world of top Chinese leaders who have been accused of accumulating massive wealth.
Last year, former prime minister Wen Jiabo's family was accused of garnering over $ 2.7 billion in personal wealth. Another survey alleged Xi and his family's wealth amounted over $ 100 million.
Official media say the trial may end on Sunday amid speculation that Bo himself may be getting a death sentence with two years reprieve.