Frenchman in China's Bo probe returns to Cambodia

This handout photo taken in July 2012 and released by the General Commissariat of National Police (GCNP) shows French architect Patrick Devillers (L) standing in front of an immigration officer at the Phnom Penh International Airport before departing Cambodia for China. Devillers has returned to Cambodia, a government spokesman in Phnom Penh said

A French architect questioned in China in an investigation linked to disgraced former Communist leader Bo Xilai has returned to Cambodia, a government spokesman in Phnom Penh said Friday.

Patrick Devillers, 52, is understood to have been a close business associate and friend of Bo and his wife Gu Kailai, key figures in China's biggest political scandal in decades.

He was arrested in Phnom Penh in June at Beijing's request, sparking a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and France, which warned Cambodia not to send the architect anywhere without a clear legal basis.

Devillers was released in July and flew to China to help the probe into Gu, who was given a suspended death sentence on August 20 for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

"He returned to Cambodia about two weeks ago," Cambodian interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told AFP.

"He is living in Cambodia now as a legal immigrant. He has a Cambodian wife and two children," he said. "He went to China voluntarily. Now he is back and he is not guilty of anything in Cambodia."

Bo, the former leader of the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing, is being probed for corruption in a political drama that has drawn worldwide attention.

The scandal, which first came to light in February, has exposed deep divisions within the Chinese Communist Party ahead of a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition, analysts say.

Devillers is believed to have first crossed paths with Bo and Gu in the 1990s, when Bo hired him to do some architectural work in the Chinese city of Dalian.