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Disgraced Bo faces criminal inquiry

China's top prosecutor's office is investigating disgraced politician Bo Xilai for criminal offences as authorities move quickly to resolve a damaging public scandal that caused divisive infighting among the leadership.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate said it has placed Bo under investigation for unspecified crimes and has imposed coercive measures on him - a euphemism for jail.

The prosecutor's announcement came hours after the legislature stripped Bo, once a member of the leadership, of his last official post, removing his immunity from prosecution. The move is largely a formality.

Bo's fate was sealed last month when his fellow leaders expelled him from the Communist Party and accused him of misdeeds ranging from corruption to negligence after he learned that his wife had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo's expulsion from the congress removes his immunity from prosecution, setting the stage for a criminal case involving accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing, including involvement in covering up the murder Mr Heywood, 41. Bo's wife and a household aide were convicted of the murder last month.

Chinese leaders are keen to resolve the party's most damaging public scandal in decades as they prepare for next month's once-in-a-decade transition of power.

They are handing over to the next generation of leaders, who will be tasked with shoring up public support in the face of widespread disgust over official corruption and influence peddling.

They may even want to push through a trial before the opening of the party congress on November 8, though some experts say there may not be enough time.

Leaders still need to reach a consensus on how harshly to punish Bo, which of his associates to include in the trial and ensure the accused remains compliant in the courtroom, said Ding Xueliang, an expert on the Chinese leadership at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

"It's really a very muddy situation," he said.

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