A Cambodia-based French national has flown "of his own free will" to China to help the authorities there with an ongoing probe into the international financial affairs of former Chongqing Communist Party Chief Bo Xilai and a murder investigation in which Bo's wife is a suspect, French officials said.
Patrick Henri Devillers, 52, boarded a flight for China Tuesday after being released from detention by the Cambodian authorities, the French foreign ministry told reporters at a regular news briefing.
"Mr. Devillers informed us on several occasions—and after having the chance to consult with his lawyer as we had demanded—of his desire to go to China of his own free will in order to cooperate with the Chinese courts," the spokesman said in comments reported on the French diplomatic service website.
"He stated to our ambassador that he had obtained a certain number of guarantees from the Chinese authorities," the statement said.
The fall of Bo Xilai has embroiled China's ruling Communist Party in the biggest political scandal in decades, just ahead of a key leadership transition later in the year, and Devillers was initially detained at Beijing's request.
But the French foreign ministry said that France was not included in "discussions that took place in Phnom Penh between Mr. Devillers and the Chinese authorities."
It said Devillers, who was arrested in Phnom Penh on June 13, would continue to benefit from the full consular protection of the French embassy in Beijing.
Lawyers say that Chinese investigators trying to track down Bo's assets as part of a probe into "serious breaches" of discipline in China's ruling Communist Party, are currently faced with a complicated legal process involving the judicial systems of several different countries.
Devillers is known to have had close ties to Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and had given the same address as her while living in London, U.K. media reported.
Gu Kailai has been named by China as a suspect in the murder last November of British businessman Neil Heywood and some reports suggest a trial could be held soon.
No details have been made public by China about the ongoing investigation into "serious violations" of Party discipline alleged against Bo and his former police chief Wang Lijun, nor about the police investigation into Heywood's death, in which Gu is a suspect.
Unconfirmed media reports have said that Gu, 53, who is being held in a government-affiliated facility in northern China, has "confessed" to killing Heywood to stop him revealing illegal remittances of billions of dollars abroad that he allegedly helped to organize for her.
Heywood, 41, was discovered dead in a Chongqing hotel in November, and was quickly cremated after his death was blamed on a drinking binge.
Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told reporters that Devillers took a flight from Cambodia to China late on Tuesday and that he had left without an escort from the French embassy.
"He voluntarily went as a witness," he said, adding that China had given an assurance that Devillers would only be required for up to 60 days before being allowed to return.
Sources who knew Bo Xilai during his tenure as Party chief in the northeastern city of Dalian have said that Devillers and Gu managed the family's financial affairs together.
An official who answered the phone at the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing said the spokesman's office had "received no information" about Devillers' arrival in China or his role in the investigation.
Reported by Ho Shan for RFA's Cantonese service with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie.