Bo Xilai with his wife Gu Kailai in happier times. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
Yesterday, Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the mysterious death of a British businessman Neil Heywood who was closely linked (and apparently had business disputes) with Gu Kailai, the second wife of the recently ousted Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. There’s more excellent sleuthing from Page today, who says Heywood was working part-time for a British strategic-intelligence firm, Hakluyt & Co., set up by former spies, although the company has since denied he was involved in Chongqing-related projects:
A spokesman for Hakluyt said Mr. Heywood had been providing the company with services on a case-by-case basis for some time, without specifying exactly how long. Hakluyt was founded by former officers with the British intelligence service MI6.
“Neil had a long history of advising Western companies on China and we were among those who sought his advice,” the spokesman said. “We’re greatly saddened by his death.” He declined to say what services Mr. Heywood provided. The firm offers business intelligence and advice as well as credit checks and other due-diligence services.
Several acquaintances and former colleagues of Mr. Heywood said they weren’t aware of what exactly he had been doing in Chongqing in November. But people familiar with the case said his Chinese wife wasn’t in Chongqing at the time, according to people familiar with the case.
People who knew Mr. Heywood described him as a well-spoken man in his late 40s or early 50s, often clad in a cream linen jacket and tie, who had lived in China for many years and was known in the business community as a part-time dealer of Aston Martin sports cars.
They say that Mr. Heywood, a Mandarin speaker, also was known as a freelance consultant who could help to arrange meetings and solve business problems thanks in large part to a connection with the Bo family established through his wife, who was from the northeastern city of Dalian, where Mr. Bo was mayor from 1993 to 2001.
Two people who knew Mr. Heywood said they thought he had played a role in helping to look after Mr. Bo’s son, Bo Guagua, when he was studying at two British private boarding schools—Papplewick and Harrow—and at Oxford University. Two others described him as a “low-level fixer” for the Bo family, suggesting he acted as a middleman for them, helping to arrange meetings with business figures and to advise them on dealing with foreigners.
The Chinese government has received the UK’s request to investigate Heywood’s death and promised to “take it forward.”