An ex-police chief at the centre of a political scandal that has rocked the Communist Party ahead of a 10-yearly power handover has been charged by prosecutors, state media said Wednesday.
Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief and right hand man of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, faces a number of charges relating to the covering up of the murder in November of British businessman Neil Heywood, by Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, Xinhua said.
The charges -- defection, power abuse, taking bribes and bending the law for selfish ends -- come after he fled to a US consulate in February, reportedly seeking asylum.
The news agency quoted an indictment which said Wang had "known beforehand" that Gu was under "serious suspicion" of murdering Heywood, without taking action.
Gu was handed a suspended death sentence for the murder last month.
"He consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain so that Gu Kailai would not be held legally responsible," the indictment said, according to Xinhua.
"While he was performing his official duty, (he) left his post without authorization and defected to the United States Consulate General," it added.
The indictment also claimed that Wang had used "reconnaissance measures, either without the approval of authorities or by forging approval documents".
The indictment did not give any further details on this, but Wang was previously alleged to have recorded a confession by Gu shortly after the murder.
The indictment also claimed Wang took advantage of his position and "accepted massive bribes", again without giving further details.
Bo had been widely expected to ascend to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee later this year until he was ousted over the scandal.
He is currently under investigation for "serious discipline violations" -- party code for corruption.
Wang reportedly confronted Bo with information relating to the murder of Heywood before fleeing to the US consulate in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where he spoke with US officials for several hours.
Security forces surrounded the consulate and Wang was subsequently handed over to Chinese custody, but the incident triggered the rapid unravelling of Bo's fortunes and those of his high-flying family.
Wang's charges were filed at the Intermediate People's Court of Chengdu city, Xinhua said.
It is unclear at this stage whether he will face trial at the court or when the trial will be.
The charges come after four of his senior police officers in Chongqing were found guilty of being involved in the murder cover up last month.
The four were charged with trying to conceal Gu's involvement in the crime by "forging interview scripts and hiding evidence", a court official said.
Wang's charges drag back into the spotlight a scandal that analysts say has exposed deep divisions within the Communist Party ahead of a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition due to take place later this year.
Political leaders are eager to draw a line under the controversy. But there is also likely to be intense speculation on the future of Bo, who has not been seen since April and is thought to be under house arrest.
Wang's charges emerged as a high level US delegation -- including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- was leaving Beijing following talks in the Chinese capital.
US officials traveling with Clinton told AFP they had not been told in advance about the charges during their visit, but that they had "expected (Wang) to be prosecuted at some point due to political dynamics in China".
The charges also come a week after it emerged that the French architect who was questioned in China as part of the investigation had returned to Cambodia.
Patrick Devillers, 52, who is understood to have been a close business associate and friend of Bo and his wife Gu, had been questioned in Beijing.