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Trial reveals greed of China's elite

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 9:18 p.m.
In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, former Politburo member and party leader of the megacity of Chongqing Bo Xilai, in the defendant seat listens to a testimony by former Chongqing city police chief Wang Lijun, unseen, at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan in eastern China's Shandong province, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Disgraced Chinese politician Bo told a court Saturday his wife stole government funds without his involvement and revealed how the couple became estranged after he had been unfaithful, offering a glimpse in his politically charged trial of the unraveling of one of China's elite families. Wang triggered Bo's downfall when he fled to a US consulate with revelations that Bo's wife had killed a British businessman. (AP Photo/Jinan Intermediate People's Court)

JINAN, China — Greed, machinations and betrayal in one of China's elite families were laid bare when prosecutors in the corruption trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai released testimony from his wife on a businessman's gifts to the family that included a French villa and plane tickets to three continents.

A city official on Saturday testified that Bo had embezzled 5 million yuan ($816,927) of government funds, a charge the former politician has denied.

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

Bo's trial had been expected to be swift, 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 lawyer Zhang Sizhi, who has represented defendants in high-profile political cases, including Mao Zedong's wife in 1980.

Courtroom revelations by the prosecution have laid bare the way that shady ties between powerful officials and businessmen can play out in China, as well as the extent to which a political family might go to hide its wealth. Part of the couple's influence comes from the pedigree as the children of revolutionary veterans, a status that gives them access to important political and business networks.

Prosecutors depicted Bo as trading favors with Xu Ming, a businessman in the northeastern city of Dalian, where Bo was a top official. Bo, they said, acted as Xu's political patron, helping the businessman take over a football club and secure land for a hot-air balloon project in return for expensive gifts for the family that included a villa in France.

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