Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mystery Frenchman in Bo saga seen in Cambodia

Throughout the drama revolving around the dismissal of ambitious Chinese official Bo Xilai and the investigation of his wife on murder charges, the most mysterious figure has been a French architect named Patrick Henri Devillers.

1 comment:

Guanyu 道 said...

Mystery Frenchman in Bo saga seen in Cambodia

The New York Times in Phnom Penh
18 May 2012

Throughout the drama revolving around the dismissal of ambitious Chinese official Bo Xilai and the investigation of his wife on murder charges, the most mysterious figure has been a French architect named Patrick Henri Devillers.

When Bo rebuilt the city of Dalian as its mayor in the 1990s, Devillers, who had married into a prominent local family, helped him lay out the new street grid and design city landmarks.

When Bo’s wife Gu Kailai set up a company in Britain in 2000 to select European architects for Chinese construction projects, Devillers was her partner. Adding even more spice to the intrigue, both of them gave the same address, an apartment in Bournemouth, on the southeastern coast of England.

Those connections have produced a sometimes breathless swirl of international media coverage of Devillers for more than a month, made even more intense because journalists have struggled in vain to find him. Even his appearance has been a mystery, as no photos of him have surfaced on the internet.

But the man who reluctantly and quizzically opened his front gate to an unexpected and unwanted visitor on a recent night in Phnom Penh belied the image painted of him.

Devillers, 51, has greying hair and stands with slightly stooped shoulders. A pair of reading glasses hung from a black cord around his neck. He has an occasional wry smile, and a calm demeanour that may stem from his years closely studying Taoism.

Devillers declined to speak on the record at his modest home. After a subsequent exchange of e-mails, late on Wednesday evening he allowed one comment - a Taoist quote - to be attributed to him.

He uses it to summarise his contempt for the media interest in him, his denial that he has engaged in money laundering for anyone in China or been involved in any other wrongdoing, and his hope that the world will soon lose interest in him.

“Regarding our subject, I came on this quote from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu which says: ‘Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself’,” Devillers wrote. “I believe this teaching to be full of wisdom and hope facts will unfold the truth of it.”

Devillers is one of two Westerners known to have been close associates of Gu, now a suspect in the death last November of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Devillers has not been accused by the authorities in China or anywhere else of any misconduct.

In March 2006, Devillers and his father, Michel Devillers, jointly set up holding company D2 Properties in Luxembourg, seeding it with a number of real estate holdings as assets. That transaction prompted speculation that D2 Properties might have been used to help Gu or others in China move money out of the country while circumventing China’s fairly stringent capital controls.

But Michel Devillers said his son was incapable of following through on any business scheme whatsoever. “In business, he’s useless,” the elder Devillers said, speaking from his home in France. “He’s an artist.”