Closer Look: Bo Xilai Trial Illustrates How Businessmen Infiltrate Officials' Lives
(Beijing) – A five-day hearing and timely updates on the microblog of the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, in the eastern province of Shandong, provided a rough picture of the complicated Bo Xilai case.
Many people said the open trial showed unprecedented transparency and was progress for the judiciary. More importantly, however, the Bo case offered a precious lesson for anti-corruption efforts.
One of the most important aspects of the case was the relationship between businessmen and officials. Court records showed that the world of the former Politburo member and Communist Party chief of Chongqing connected the government and business arenas.
As a politician, Bo held crucial power over economic matters and was pursued by businessmen throughout his career, which arced from mayor of Dalian and governor of Liaoning Province to the Ministry of Commerce, which he headed, and finally to Chongqing.
Privately, Bo's wife, Bogu Kailai, used her influence to receive all kinds of benefits from businessmen like Xu Ming, the chairman of Dalian Shide Group. These ranged from tickets for international flights to a villa in France.
In Bo's position, a nod or even a gesture of acquiescence could directly translate into an opportunity for profit. This is how Dalian businessman Tang Xiaolin pocketed millions of yuan from the reshuffle of government-owned Dalian International Development Ltd. and reselling auto import quotas. With Bo's backing, Xu gained from a deal to buy a soccer team and an investment in a chemical project.
For Bogu Kailai, numerous gifts also came freely. What is interesting is that it seems Bo was careless and silent about all his wife's financial dealings, all while she actively showed she was influential.
Businessmen like Xu were careful in how they gave benefits to the Bo family. Court records detail two private encounters between Bo and Xu. The first was at Bo's home in 2002, when Bogu Kailai talked with Xu about the French villa. Bo said he "accidentally met them" upon returning home.
The second was in 2004, when Xu visited the Ministry of Commerce and the two spoke privately in the parking lot. (Bo denies this chat happened.)
Bo said "it is my fault that I didn't notice Xu's financial sponsorship of my son's education overseas and spending on flights and lodging," but he denied knowledge of the French villa.
The three-way relationship between Bo, his wife and Xu may have been an attempt by Bo to protect himself. During the trial, Bo tried to distance himself from the dealings between Bogu Kailai and Xu.
In fact, he even professed ignorance of Xu, saying he treated the businessman as he would a passerby. "We have nothing in common and are not on the same level," Bo said of Xu. Despite this, prosecutors say the businessman visited the family frequently.
In the public arena, Bo helped Xu without ever leaving evidence of bribes. Unspoken rules were followed.
Bo repeatedly tried to prove that he did not know the details of his wife's acceptance of money, but this is self-deception. The prosecutor said Bo and his wife formed an interest group and engaged in corruption together. Bo's lack of detailed knowledge does not change the fact he participated in graft.
Anti-corruption officers should use the case as an example of the dangerous links that can form between officials and businessmen. It is proof that a mechanism must be set up to limit the power of officials, prevent their relatives from using their offices for private gain, and require officials to make their assets and finances public.