UK & World News

  • 26 March 2012, 13:25

China Asked To Probe Death Of UK Businessman

The Government has asked China to investigate the mysterious death of a British businessman which may be linked to a political scandal that has engulfed the Communist Party.

Neil Heywood, who was in his early 40s, died in a hotel room in the city of Chongqing in November last year.

Chinese police said it was the result of "excessive alcohol consumption" and cremated his body without performing an autopsy.

But British officials now say they have received new information about the case.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, that information includes questions raised by friends of Mr Heywood, who say that he was teetotal.

"We are aware of suspicions and rumours surrounding his death," said a statement from the Foreign Office.

"After we were made aware of these suspicions we passed them on to the Chinese authorities and asked them to investigate further."

Acquaintances of Mr Heywood say he had been living in China since the late 1990s and was married to a Chinese national.

He was the non-executive director of a local Aston Martin dealer.

Sources told Sky News he worked as a consultant for Chinese companies wanting to list on the London Stock Exchange.

He told at least one acquaintance he had ties to the family of Bo Xilai, a Chinese politician now at the centre of the country's biggest political scandal in more than two decades.

Mr Bo was sacked as Chongqing's Communist Party chief earlier this month after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, sought refuge inside a US consulate.

It is thought he asked for political asylum and gave American diplomats evidence implicating Bo Xilai in criminal wrongdoing.

Wang eventually left the consulate after a 24-hour standoff, during which Chinese police blocked off surrounding streets.

Both Wang and Bo are now being investigated by the Communist Party.

The case has electrified Chinese websites, where speculation is rife that Mr Bo had been plotting a coup against leaders in Beijing.

Some claim his downfall was fuelled by the lavish lifestyle of his son, Bo Guagua, who was educated at Harrow and Oxford.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mr Bo fell out with his chief of police after he raised suspicions that Neil Heywood may have been poisoned.

It is thought that Mr Bo's wife may have been involved in a business dispute with Mr Heywood.

An internal Communist Party report posted on the Chinese internet says that Bo Xilai was removed from office after scheming to impede a corruption investigation that involved his family.

Mr Heywood's family could not be reached for comment.