A French architect detained by Cambodian authorities in the capital Phnom Penh last month travelled to China late Tuesday to assist with enquiries into what has become a high-profile political scandal in the country.
Patrick Henri Devillers, 52, who allegedly has ties to deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai, said in a video interview posted on the website of Cambodian police late Thursday that he would likely go to Beijing from Shanghai to “cooperate” in a case involving the former Chongqing city chief’s wife Gu Kailai.
Devillers said that he was going “freely” and would like to thank Cambodian authorities for releasing him and immigration officials for their “care and friendship”. The video also showed Devillers having his passport processed at Phnom Penh’s airport.
Cambodian officials arrested Devillers on June 13 in Phnom Penh - where he has apparently lived for a number of years – though his relation to the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai remains unclear. Local media have quoted Cambodian officials as saying that Devillers’ arrest was made at China’s request.
According to news reports, Devillers was once a business associate of Gu Kailai, who has been linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood last year in Chongqing, a large city in China’s southwest. Devillers reportedly first encountered the couple when Bo hired him to complete work in the northeastern city of Dalian in the 1990s.
Cambodia’s Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said on Friday that he had no further comment, referring questions to French authorities. A spokesperson from the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached.
Khieu Kanharith was quoted in local media this week as saying that China promised Devillers could return after 60 days provided there were no problems.
'Of his own free will'
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Devillers had travelled to China voluntarily.
“Mr Devillers informed us on several occasions - and after having the chance to consult with his lawyer as we had demanded - of his desire to go to China of his own free will in order to cooperate with the Chinese courts,” the statement read. “He stated to our ambassador that he had obtained a certain number of guarantees from the Chinese authorities.”
France was not privy to discussions between Devillers and Chinese authorities in Phnom Penh, the statement said, but Devillers would receive “full consular protection” from the French embassy in Beijing.
Bernard Valero, spokesperson for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told DW that the ministry was in contact with Chinese authorities and expected to be in touch with Devillers soon.
Author: Mary Kozlovski
Editor: Arun Chowdhury