The disgraced former Chinese Communist Party supremo Bo Xilai yesterday admitted in court some responsibility for embezzling funds, saying he was "ashamed" of his actions, as his explosive corruption trial draws to a close.
His trial, documenting the spectacular fall from grace of a Chinese politician who rose to be one of the most powerful figures in the ruling Communist Party, was due to end yesterday, but is expected to last into today. A guilty verdict is considered likely.
Mr Bo is charged with corruption, accepting bribes and abuse of power after the rising political star's career was dramatically derailed last year when his wife, Gu Kailai, was accused, and later convicted, of murdering the British businessman and family friend Neil Heywood, who was found poisoned in a hotel room in China in November 2011.
Mr Bo's case has attracted worldwide media attention as the murder, alleged corruption, bribery and extramarital affairs in the highest echelons of China's political elite sent shockwaves through the ruling party, exposing deep divisions.
Yesterday, Mr Bo, 64, accepted some blame for five million yuan (£520,000) that found its way into his wife's bank account, but denied he intended to embezzle government funds dating back to the early 2000s, when he was a senior local official in the north-eastern city of Dalian in Liaoning province.
"This money had already gone into my wife's account, leading to the personal use of public money," he told the Jinan Intermediate People's Court on the third day of his trial.
"I am willing to approve the analysis of the prosecutors after their investigation, and at the same time accept legal responsibility for this. I am deeply ashamed and regretful about this incident," Mr Bo said. He has also denied receiving around £2.1m in bribes.
Mr Bo has dismissed claims made in an earlier testimony by his wife, who was jailed for the murder of Heywood in August 2012, that he allegedly stole public funds to pay for her and their son's stay in Britain while the boy attended school here.
Gu, a former lawyer, had plenty of money, Mr Bo countered, and disappeared abroad with their son as Mr Bo had had an affair. Earlier in the trial he branded his wife "crazy", accusing her of trying to reduce her own sentence by discrediting him.
But it was the defection of Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing City, where Mr Bo was party boss after leaving Dalian, that triggered the politician's rapid demise. Mr Wang, who spearheaded Mr Bo's successful campaign to tackle gangs and organised crime in Chongqing, which won the politician considerable popularity, sought refuge in the US consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after accusing Mr Bo's wife, Gu, of the murder of the Harrow-educated Heywood.
Enraged by the allegations, Mr Bo sacked Mr Wang, and ordered security forces to surround the consulate. Mr Wang had earlier suppressed evidence of Heywood's murder and was later jailed for the crime alongside Gu. "So I bear some responsibility for Wang Lijun's flight [to the consulate] and I feel very sorry for this," Mr Bo said.