Patrick Devillers, former friend and business associate of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai, left Cambodia aboard a plane for China of his own free will late last night, a government official said.
“He agreed to go by himself, because China wants him to be a witness in some issues occurring in China, and China has promised to hold him for 60 days, up to September 13-14, 2012,” said Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith. “He will be permitted to return if there are not any problems.”
Yang Tianyue, first political officer of the Chinese Embassy, also confirmed that “Patrick Devillers went to China of his own free will.”
According to Kanharith, the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, which declined to comment on the matter, was not keen on the prospect of Devillers choosing to leave.
“The French embassy did not agree to send [him to China], because they said this case does not have any [formal extradition] request from China,” he said.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, confirmed to the Post that Devillers had himself decided to go to China.
“Mr. Devillers told us about his wish to voluntarily go to China to collaborate with Chinese justice,” said ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “He told us that he has received a certain number of guarantees from the Chinese government."
Valero added that despite his consular protection, which would continue in China, Devillers had made his decision to leave independently.
“France has not been a part of the discussion between Mr. Devillers and China in Phnom Penh, so it does not have to comment,” he said.
Cambodian authorities took Devillers into custody on June 13 at China’s request.
According to sources close to the French architect, Devillers was told he was attending a business meeting there.
Devillers’ involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal is still hazy, but he was known to have close ties to both Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai, a suspect in the killing of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Last month, Kanharith speculated as to the cause for Devillers’ arrest, saying that “based on my own research, Patrick Devillers was … holding the money for the wife of Mr. Bo Xilai”.