Heywood in China
|Born||20 October 1970
Kensington, London, England
|Died||14 November 2011
Cause of death
|Alma mater||Harrow School
University of Warwick
|Occupation||Consultant and businessman|
Neil Heywood (20 October 1970 – 14 November 2011) was an English businessman who worked in China. He was associated with Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party of China Committee Secretary for Chongqing and a member of the Chinese Politburo.
Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in Chongqing, and the initial official reports (which have subsequently been challenged) attributed his death to alcohol poisoning. Media reports have suggested that the former chief of police under Bo, Wang Lijun, may have had information about Heywood's death. Wang fled to the US consulate in Chengdu on 6 February 2012 and allegedly told US diplomats that Heywood had been poisoned, and that Bo's family was involved in corruption. The Wang Lijun incident precipitated Bo's high-profile sacking two weeks later. According to a reinvestigation by the Chinese authorities, evidence indicates that Heywood was murdered, with Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai's wife, and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo's home, "highly suspected," according to Xinhua News. On 26 July 2012, Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood  and in August convicted of the crime.
He spent more than a decade in China, and was a Chinese speaker. He was married to Wang Lulu, a Chinese national from Dalian, and had two children, 11-year-old Olivia and seven-year-old Peter, who both attend the Beijing branch of Dulwich College. They lived in a private, tree-lined compound of expensive villas on the outskirts of Beijing. Heywood drove an S-type Jaguar, with a Union Jack bumper sticker.
Heywood was not a heavy drinker, but was a chain smoker. His father, Peter, died of a heart attack after drinks over dinner at his London home in 2004 at age 63, according to family members.
Heywood served as an intermediary linking western companies to powerful figures in the Chinese political structure. He ran a company named Heywood Boddington Associates, registered at his mother's house in London. It claims to be "a multi-discipline consultancy focusing on serving the interests of UK businesses in the People's Republic of China".
He developed a business relationship with Gu Kailai, a lawyer, businesswoman, and the wife of Bo Xilai. Both Gu and Bo are children of once-prominent members of the Chinese Communist Party. Heywood appears to have played the role of a Bai Shoutao or white glove for the Bo family, doing business on their behalf, since, as a prominent party family, they could not sully their hands with financial dealings.
Businessmen have complained that any foreign company wishing to work in Chongqing had to appoint Gu Kailai's law firm to act on its behalf, failing which it could not get required permissions and licenses. The law firm, Kailai Law (now Beijing Ang-dao Law), is said to have charged exorbitant fees.
Heywood's clients included Beijing Aston Martin dealerships and Rolls-Royce. He was also hired occasionally by Hakluyt & Company, a consultancy firm co-founded by a former officer in Britain's MI6 intelligence service.
Rumours that Heywood might have been employed as an agent by British intelligence have been denied by Foreign Secretary William Hague, an unusual move, as the British government typically refuses to comment on the identity of its agents. The Wall Street Journal later reported that they had confirmed, after interviewing former and current British officials and others, that Heywood had since 2009 been regularly supplying information to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), although he was not an MI6 employee.
Relationship with Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai
Heywood had business links with Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai. He reportedly met with the Bo family in Dalian, the northeast metropolis where Bo was mayor from 1994 to 2000. Heywood was then working at a Dalian English-language school and helped Bo's youngest son gain admission to Harrow.
The Daily Mail has suggested that Heywood and Gu may have been involved in an extra-marital affair. The Daily Telegraph, however, reports that the two "shared a long and close personal relationship, but were not romantically involved."
Following a corruption investigation in 2007, Gu is said to have become increasingly paranoid. In 2010, she allegedly asked Heywood and other close associates to divorce their spouses and swear allegiance to her.
Reuters news agency reported (based on a source in Chongqing who had been briefed by government investigators) that Heywood told Gu that he had the power to ruin her and her family, based on his knowledge of overseas funds transfers made by the Bo family. This was the first time that a possible motive for the businessman's murder had been reported. Gu and Heywood are said to have had a financial disagreement in October 2011. Reportedly, Gu was trying to move a large amount of yuan out of China through Heywood, and he demanded a larger commission than usual. When Gu objected, he is said to have made a veiled threat to expose her dealing.
On 14 November, Heywood was summoned to Chongqing by Gu Kailai. She sent Zhang Xiaojun to bring him from Beijing to the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel. Zhang Xiaojun is described as an 'orderly' in the Bo household. Aged 32, he used to serve as a bodyguard for Bo Yibo (one of the Founding Fathers of People's Republic of China). He is also listed as the supervisor of the Guagua Technology Company, belonging to Bo Guagua.
The Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel is a secluded three-star hilltop retreat, also marketed as the Lucky Holiday Hotel. Gu Kailai is known to have hosted a banquet there in the past, but according to two sources quoted by The Daily Telegraph in the UK, was not at the scene at the time of Heywood's murder. The hotel is located in and overlooks Nan'an District.
Heywood was found in his hotel room, 26 hours after his death. The cause of death was given as alcohol poisoning. There was no autopsy and he was cremated days later. Questions were raised later as friends described him as "not a serious drinker" (some reports have his family describing him as "a teetotaler").
An internal Chinese report confirmed that Heywood died from potassium cyanide added to his drink. However, further investigations led to new findings suggesting the death of Heywood was a murder committed by Gu Kailai.
Two days after Heywood's death, according to internet reports related by the Daily Mail, Gu Kailai met with Heywood's wife and urged her to permit immediate cremation without an autopsy. Kailai was accompanied by two armed guards in this exchange. British Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne met Bo Xilai in China a few days later, but didn't raise the question of Heywood's death.
Wang Lijun, who was the head of Chongqing police department as well as the vice mayor of Chongqing, was in charge of the investigation. According to a CPC internal report, Wang Lijun and his lieutenants were said to be under political pressure during the investigations. Soon Wang Lijun found the murder was related to Bo Xilai, who had been his superior for more than 10 years. After submitting the investigation report to Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun was suspended by Bo. Some of the police officers who participated in the investigation were arrested.
In February 2012, Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, precipitating the so-called Wang Lijun incident. On 14 March 2012, the Dalian based billionaire Xu Ming, a close associate of Bo, disappeared. It was speculated that he was under arrest. Reports suggest Heywood's wife was employed by Xu. On 15 March 2012, Bo Xilai was removed from his post of party chief for Chongqing.
On 10 April 2012, Bo Xilai was suspended from the Politburo and suspected of being involved in "serious disciplinary violations". The same day, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said that, according to the reinvestigation, the evidence indicated Heywood was a victim of homicide, of which Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, and Zhang Xiaojun, her bodyguard, were "strongly suspected". Bo was placed under house arrest in Beijing. Gu and Zhang were both arrested.
The Communist Party chief in Nan'an, Xia Zeliang, was detained for questioning in April 2012; the official was a staunch ally of Bo. He was arrested and allegedly confessed that he prepared the poison and handed it to an employee of Bo.
On 13 April 2012, Heywood's widow, Wang Lulu, visited the British Embassy in Beijing, and asked for a visa to travel to the UK with her two young children, reportedly concerned that the people who had killed her husband might come after her and her family. The entrance to the family's gated compound in Beijing was manned by troops from the People's Liberation Army, and police ordered her not to communicate with international journalists.
According to The Daily Telegraph of 17 April 2012, UK Prime Minister David Cameron would meet Chinese publicity department head Li Changchun to discuss the Heywood case. The Boxun website reported that Bo's most influential supporter, the 9th ranking Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, was forced to make "tearful self-confessions" to Hu Jintao.
On 26 July 2012, Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood. On 9 August 2012, the trial of Gu Kalai was held and lasted only one day, as the defendant did not contest the charges. The same day, four policemen, all senior officers from Chongqing, where the UK businessman was killed, were formally accused of covering up the murder of Heywood and indicted to go on trial.
On 20 August 2012, the verdict was announced. Gu Kailai was sentenced to death but the sentence was suspended, which means that Gu is likely to face from 14 years to life in jail, if she does not commit offences in the next two years. Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family aide, was sentenced to nine years in jail for his involvement in the murder, which he admitted to.
Following the verdict, Britain's embassy in China stated, in an e-mailed press release, that it had welcomed the investigation, adding "[we] consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied." BBC News commented that "informed observers see the fingerprints of the Communist Party of China all over this outcome", stating that the trial's conclusion was "all too neat and uncannily suited to one particular agenda", that of limiting the scandal's damage.
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