The French government has confirmed that Patrick Henri Devillers, the architect implicated in a high-profile political scandal in China and arrested in Cambodia last month, flew to China on Tuesday after making a deal to help the investigation to which he is linked.
After being detained in Cambodia since his arrest at a Phnom Penh restaurant on June 13 in connection the investigation into former Chinese politician Bo Xilai and his wife, Mr. Devillers, 52, left the country on a late night flight to Shanghai.
“Mr. Devillers told us several times, including after consulting with his lawyer as we had asked, of his wish to voluntarily go to China to collaborate with the Chinese justice,” said a statement from French Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
“He specified that he had received from the Chinese authorities a certain number of guarantees. France is not part of the discussions that have been taking place in Phnom Penh between Mr. Devillers and the Chinese authorities. Thus, we don’t have to comment on them.”
The statement- the first word on the case from France since it expressed concern shortly after Mr. Devillers’ arrest-said that French officials had ensured that he had access to a lawyer. It reiterated that they had been providing him consular support and would continue to do so in China.
“In the framework of this consular protection, we have made sure that Mr. Devillers’ rights would be respected wherever [he is],” it said.
Mr. Devillers has been linked to Mr. Bo, who was deposed from his position in Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo in April, and his wife, Gu Kailai. Both are thought to be detained in China and Ms. Gu is accused of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November.
Mr. Devillers, who has lived in Cambodia for at least five years and has children with a Cambodian partner, is thought to be involved in helping the Bo family to take illicit money out of China. It has been reported that Ms. Gu has admitted to killing Neil Heywood because he threatened to expose a remittances scheme in which both he and Mr. Devillers were involved.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that Mr. Devillers “voluntarily went [to China] as a witness on the case.”
“China has promised that in 60 days-it should be September 13 or 14 if there are no problems-they will let him come back [to Cambodia], so we wait to see if they keep their word,” Mr. Kanharith said, adding that Mr. Devillers was not accompanied by French Embassy officials on the flight.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that Cambodia had released Mr. Devillers from custody on Tuesday following a request from China received on Monday.
“The Chinese sent a letter to withdraw their request to arrest [Mr. Devillers],” he said. “When they withdrew the request, we had to let the person go. We have fulfilled our duty as the partner of China.”
“The person [Mr. Devillers] can go wherever he wants,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak added.