Briton murdered in China fed tips to British intelligence

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 7, 2012 1:24am IST

British businessman Neil Heywood poses for a photograph at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

British businessman Neil Heywood poses for a photograph at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A British businessman murdered in China in a high-profile case of political intrigue was an informal source of information for Britain's foreign intelligence agency, MI6, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The sources confirmed the substance of a news report earlier Tuesday alleging that U.K. businessman Neil Heywood, who died under suspicious circumstances a year ago in the Chinese city of Chongqing, had been in contact with MI6 and had been a "willful and knowing informant."

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity, reiterated public denials by top British government officials that Heywood had ever been an MI6 staff officer. In an April letter to a member of Parliament, William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, declared that "Mr. Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity."

When asked about the Heywood allegation today, a spokeswoman for the British embassy in Washington said: "We don't comment on intelligence matters."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Heywood's contact in MI6 had once described him as "useful." The newspaper said Heywood, who acted as a "freelance" consultant advising companies and individuals on business in China, for about a year had provided British intelligence with information on intrigue inside the family of Bo Xilai, a Chinese Communist Party boss whose spectacular downfall earlier this year caused political upheaval.

The Journal reported that Heywood had not been paid for information by MI6 and that the British agency had not given him "tasking," meaning it had not asked him to perform specific assignments or dig up specific information.

The Journal said Heywood had dealings with various British companies and politicians, including a member of the House of Lords who met Heywood several times in the company of his MI6 contact.

While Heywood's high-level Chinese contacts were impressive, there are indications that British authorities regarded him as unreliable and treated him and his information with caution.

According to news reports and official Chinese accounts, Heywood was murdered after he flew last November to Chongqing to meet with members of Bo's family. Bo, then that city's Communist Party boss, had been expected to be promoted to the Party's highest echelon this year.

According to an account presented at the trial of Gu Kailai, Bo's wife and Heywood's alleged killer, Gu murdered Heywood by poisoning him with cyanide in his hotel room in Chongqing.

Heywood's body was cremated without an autopsy. His family was told that he died of a heart attack, while the Journal said British authorities were advised he had died from excessive alcohol consumption.

The alleged murder plot against Heywood began to unravel after Chongqing's former police chief, Wang Lijun, took refuge briefly in a U.S. consulate in China and reportedly told American diplomats about Gu's role in Heywood's murder and her husband's involvement in corruption.

Gu was subsequently convicted of Heywood's murder and given a suspended death sentence. Bo Xilai was sacked from the Communist Party's Politburo and now awaits trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power. (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Warren Strobel and Ciro Scotti)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Korean Boat Tragedy

Family members of a missing passenger onboard the South Korean ferry Sewol which capsized on Wednesday, look at the sea as they wait for news from a rescue team, at a port in Jindo April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sunken Korea ferry relatives give DNA swabs to help identify dead

Relatives of some of the more than 200 children missing in a sunken South Korean ferry offered DNA swabs on Saturday to help identify the dead as a rescue turned into a mission to recover the vessel and the bodies of those on board.  Full Article 

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Everest Tragedy

Everest Tragedy

Death toll climbs in worst tragedy on Everest  Full Article 

Missing Plane

Missing Plane

Current underwater search for Malaysia plane could end within a week  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Putin welcomes new NATO head, says better ties with West possible  Full Article 

Japan Military

Japan Military

Japan expands army footprint for first time in 40 years, risks angering China  Full Article 

Journalists Released

Journalists Released

Kidnapped French journalists found on Turkey's Syrian border   Full Article 

Papal Message

Papal Message

Pope Good Friday service underscores plight of the suffering.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage