* Former police chief confesses to defection charges, court says
* Sought to conceal murder of British man, court says
* No mention of disgraced former top leader Bo Xilai in court statement
By Terril Yue Jones
CHENGDU, China, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A former police chief who revealed China’s biggest political scandal in two decades admitted defection and did not contest charges of taking bribes and illegal surveillance at his two-day trial ending Tuesday, a court official said.
Wang Lijun, ex-police chief of southwestern Chongqing municipality, sought to conceal the murder of a British businessman by the wife of one of the nation’s most senior and ambitious politicians, Bo Xilai, said an official account of the trial.
Foreign reporters were barred from attending the trial amid tight security around the court house.
A spokesman for the Chengdu Intermediate Court read out a statement to reporters at a nearby hotel, but no mention was made of Bo.
“The accused Wang Lijun voluntarily gave himself up after committing the crime of defection, and then gave a truthful account of the main crimes involved in his defection,” court spokesman Yang Yuq ua n sa id, referring to his dramatic flight to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February.
The official statement said Wang, who was shown on state television looking relaxed during the hearing, exposed leads to major crimes committed by unnamed others.
The charges against Wang carry sentences ranging from a lengthy jail term to life in prison and the death penalty. Sentencing is expected within 10 days.
“The accused Wang Lijun exposed leads concerning major criminal offences by others, and played an important role in investigating and dealing with the cases concerned,” said the official statement published by state media.
Wang’s trial was closely watched for any evidence that Bo had ordered Wang to cover up his wife’s involvement in the murder -- a sign that Bo himself could be next to face trial.
So far, Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline.
The Bo scandal has rocked Beijing, exposing rifts within the party -- elements of which are strong supporters of Bo’s populist, left-leaning policies -- at a time when China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.
Wang, 52, lifted the lid on the murder and cover-up of a British businessman in February when he went to a U.S. consulate and, according to sources, told envoys there about the murder that would later bring down Bo.
Within two months of Wang’s 24-hour visit to the consulate, Bo was sacked as party boss and from the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo and Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was accused of poisoning the businessman. Gu has since been given a suspended death sentence for the killing in late 2011.
Wang’s trial started on Monday in the city of Chengdu, the city where Wang staged his dramatic flight to the U.S. consulate, with an unannounced closed-door session to hear charges of defection and abuse of power, Xinhua state news agency said.
An “open trial” to hear charges of bribe taking and “bending the law for selfish ends” was held on Tuesday, said Xinhua. But the trial remained behind closed doors in the imposing, grey stone Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court.
The prosecutors said Wang “clearly knew that Bogu Kailai was a major suspect in a case of intentional homicide, and deliberately concealed that so she would not be prosecuted,” Bogu is the official but rarely used surname of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai.
However, Wang decided to later reopen the investigation
“The defendant exposed other people’s serious crimes and played a crucial role in the investigations of relevant cases, making a major contribution, and thus may see his punishment reduced,” said the statement.
Chinese experts believe Wang may receve a jail term from 15 years to life, but if the death penalty is imposed it would be commuted, as in the Gu Kailai case.
Bo had been considered a strong candidate for the next top leadership team, which is expected to be unveiled at the party’s 18th congress next month. Vice President Xi Jinping is seen as all but certain to take over as party chief and inherit the challenge of trying to heal internal wounds.
Xi will then succeed Hu Jintao as president in March.
Wang has been a close confidante of Bo and, according to the official case, he originally agreed to cover up Gu’s involvement before reversing course, fleeing to the Americans and lifting the lid on the alleged cover-up. It is not clear what happened in the consulate, but he eventually left the U.S. mission to go into the custody of Chinese authorities.