Diplomatic tussle over Frenchman in China scandal

Cambodia was at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Paris and Beijing Wednesday over the arrest of a Frenchman linked to China's biggest political scandal in decades.

Beijing has requested the extradition of 52-year-old architect Patrick Devillers, who was arrested in Phnom Penh on June 13 for committing unspecified offences in China.

Devillers is understood to have been a close business associate and friend of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai.

Bo, the former leader of the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing, is being probed for corruption while Gu has been detained for suspected involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood last year.

But after France on Wednesday warned Cambodia not to take any action without a clear legal basis, Phnom Penh promised not to send Devillers to China unless Beijing provides evidence to support its extradition request.

"In Cambodia he did not commit any wrongdoing," interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told AFP. "If there is no clear evidence he will be freed."

China and Cambodia have an extradition treaty but Khieu Sopheak said no decision had been made about the Frenchman, adding that Cambodia was also consulting French authorities on the matter.

"We are waiting for evidence from the party that requested his arrest... We need evidence from China," he said. "We can hold him for 60 days."

Devillers' connection to the Bo family drama remains unclear but in an interview with French daily Le Monde last month he denied allegations of any wrongdoing.

Neighbours and friends in Phnom Penh spoke fondly of long-time resident Devillers, although they said he had not been seen much in recent weeks.

"He was probably keeping a low profile because he saw the storm coming," said an acquaintance who did not wish to be named.

"I strongly doubt whether that storm is justified. I see Patrick as a subtle, almost poetic, creative person who found himself caught in a Chinese tangle because of his enthusiasm."

A security guard who works at a furniture store opposite Devillers' two-storey house described seeing two vehicles carrying five police officers and two foreigners drive up to the property about two weeks ago.

"I saw that they took him away," the 18-year-old said, adding that Devillers was not handcuffed. "That was the last time I saw him."

The woman who runs the furniture store told AFP that Devillers had lived in the neighbourhood for around five years and did architectural design work.

"He's a good man. He always respects the neighbours," she said, declining to be named. "He told me that he lived in China for many years. He speaks Chinese well."

A police source told AFP that Devillers was being held at Phnom Penh's immigration department.

His elderly father Michel Devillers told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph from his home in France that his son's arrest had come as a shock.

"I spoke to my son 10 days ago and he appeared perfectly calm," he was quoted as saying.

"He had no idea he was in danger of being arrested... I will be speaking with a French consular contact in Cambodia tomorrow, and I intend to fly to Cambodia as soon as possible."

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris had asked Cambodia "for clarifications on the motives for his arrest".

"We have made clear that we will be watchful that no legal action of any kind be brought against him unless its legal basis has been clearly established," he said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters he had "no information on this case" when repeatedly asked about the arrest of Devillers.

Hong refused to say whether the extradition of Devillers was brought up during a visit to Cambodia last week by top Chinese leader He Guoqiang, who heads the ruling Communist Party's internal disciplinary organ and is reportedly heading up the investigation into Bo.

The scandal surrounding Bo and Gu, which first came to light in February and made worldwide headlines, has exposed deep divisions within the Communist Party ahead of a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition, analysts say.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl
    Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found the Japanese Navy’s biggest warship at the bottom of the sea in the Philippines, 70 years after US forces sank it. Allen posted a photo on Twitter on Tuesday of the World War II battleship Musashi’s rusty bow, which bore the Japanese empire’s Chrysanthemum seal. The American billionaire, who has also pursued space exploration, said his luxury yacht and exploration ship, the M/Y Octopus, found the Musashi one kilometer (1.6 miles) deep on the …

  • Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile
    Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes granting Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile house arrest, while former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains under hospital detention, will violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. “That’s already a violation of the equal protection of the law,” she said. …

  • 8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study
    8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study

    Eight of 10 world cities most exposed to natural hazards are in the Philippines and more than half of the 100 cities most exposed to earthquakes, storms and other disasters are in four Asian nations, according to a research. The study, published on Wednesday by risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, analyzed the threat posed by storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, volcanoes and landslides in more than 1,300 cities. The study found that the 10 cities most at risk are Port Vila in …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • US ambassador recovers from knife attack praised by N. Korea
    US ambassador recovers from knife attack praised by N. Korea

    The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was recovering from surgery Thursday after having his face and arm slashed by a knife-wielding activist in an attack applauded by North Korean state media. The United States condemned the "act of violence" which saw the ambassador rushed to hospital where his condition was described as stable after two-and-a-half hours of surgery that included 80 stitches to a deep gash on his right cheek. During the assault, Kim screamed a slogan in favour of …

  • UNA hits PNP selection process
    UNA hits PNP selection process

    The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) hit yesterday the apparent machinations in the selection of the new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief. Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA interim president, said the administration and the ruling Liberal Party (LP) are perpetuating the bata-bata or patronage system in the selection process of the police chief. “They will start this by maneuvering the appointment of Gen. Garbo as PNP chief,” said Tiangco, referring to one of the top contenders for PNP …

  • Ohio mom, boyfriend guilty; child emailed teacher for help

    PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (AP) — A woman and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to raping her young children and were sentenced to prison on Wednesday, a year after one of her daughters emailed a teacher for help and said she and her siblings were being chained to their beds, deprived of food and sexually assaulted. …

  • New Moro rebel group emerges
    New Moro rebel group emerges

    A radical Muslim cleric trained in the Middle East and considered one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has broken away from the terror group to form his own band of jihadists who are now reportedly providing sanctuary to bomb expert Basit Usman and at least five foreign militants, the military said yesterday. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, citing reports from the field, said the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) was …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options