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Bo hits back over 'crazy' wife

Greed and betrayal in one of China's elite families went on display when prosecutors in the corruption trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai released testimony from his wife on a businessman's gifts to the family, including a French villa and plane tickets to three continents. Bo retorted that his wife, Gu Kailai, was "crazy" and a convicted killer, disputing the prosecution's contention that the gifts amounted to bribes - or that he even knew about them - and denying he had provided any political favours in exchange for them.

"Bogu Kailai has changed, she's crazy, and she's always making things up," Bo told the Jinan Intermediate People's Court. "Under conditions where her mental state is abnormal, the investigators put her under immense pressure to expose me."

The lurid details also have a serious political side, with the ruling Communist Party using the trial against Bo, a former Politburo member and party leader of Chongqing, to cap a messy political scandal unleashed by suspicions that his wife killed British businessman Neil Heywood.

That scandal led to his political ousting, cemented by criminal charges of interfering with the murder investigation and netting 4.3 million dollars (£2.77m) through corruption.

But China's leaders also need to perform a balancing act with the trial by showing they are serious about fighting graft but without encouraging complaints that such abuses are widespread under one-party rule. The trial is widely believed to have a conviction as its predetermined outcome, but Bo has launched an unexpectedly spirited defence.

The proceedings are lasting much longer than other recent high-profile trials, including the August 2012 conviction of Gu of Mr Heywood's murder and the corruption conviction in June of a former railways minister. In those, the defendants confessed and scant details were released.

Bo's trial had been expected to be similar, but observers say he may have negotiated for his day in court. "It's most likely that Bo has made concessions to the disciplinary commission to win a chance to defend himself in the trial," said veteran lawyer Zhang Sizhi, who has represented many defendants in high-profile political cases, including Mao Zedong's wife, in 1980.

The trial has focused attention on Bo's alleged individual economic misdeeds and avoided discussion of the political battle he's widely perceived as having lost in his pursuit of a seat in China's apex of power ahead of last year's leadership transition, analysts said. "The fact that he lost in the political game predetermined a guilty verdict, irrespective of the value of evidence being put in court," said Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In Gu's videotaped statement, she said a businessman accused of bribing Bo was a family friend who did many favours for them in exchange for her husband's help. The businessman, Xu Ming, is from the northeastern city of Dalian, where Bo was once a top official. She said Xu gave the family a villa in Nice, France, often paid for their international air tickets - prosecutors later said that included trips to Europe, Africa and South America - and expensive gifts, including a Segway - an electric standup scooter - for her son. She said Bo had been aware of the gifts.

Bo is accused of embezzlement and abusing his power in interfering in the investigation of Mr Heywood's 2011 murder. Bo's defence strategy has focused on challenging the relevance of prosecutors' evidence and stating he was ignorant of any favours that two businessmen were providing his wife and son. He described the testimony presented by his wife and the businessman Xu as "fabricated," and that of his former police chief Wang Lijun as "tittle-tattle."

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