Cambodian authorities confirmed yesterday that they are considering extraditing a French architect to China, after he was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood last year – an event that sparked one of the biggest political scandals to hit China in years.
The Information Minister, Khieu Kanharith, said Patrick Henri Devillers – who has lived in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, for several years – had been arrested after a request from China.
Mr Devillers is believed to have had close business links with the family of the deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai, whose wife, Gu Kilai, has been named as a suspect in the murder of Mr Heywood.
Chinese officials did not confirm whether Mr Devillers is suspected of any crime, or whether he is part of the broader investigation.
A spokesperson for the Cambodian interior ministry told Agence France Presse that Mr Devillers would not be extradited unless China presented proof that he had committed a crime. "In Cambodia he did not commit any wrongdoing," the spokesperson said. "If there is no clear evidence he will be freed."
Cambodia's deputy national police commissioner, Sok Phal, said Mr Devillers will stay in custody while authorities investigate. "We don't know where we will send him, but we have an extradition treaty with China," he told Reuters. "They asked us to arrest him; we arrested him and we can hold him for 60 days."
Mr Devillers is believed to have worked on building projects with Mr Bo in China in the 1990s, and shared an office with Ms Gu in Bournemouth in 2000, when the pair worked together selecting European architects for Chinese projects.
China says Ms Gu is "strongly suspected" of involvement in the death of Mr Heywood, who also had business ties with her and her husband. Mr Bo was stripped of his post as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing in south-west China in April. Neither he nor his wife has been seen publicly since.