A businessman who was murdered in China last year had ties to the British secret service, the Wall Street Journal claimed on Tuesday.
Neil Heywood, a British national who was found poisoned in his Chongqing hotel room in November 2011, provided the British secret service MI6 with information on senior Chinese politician Bo Xilai, the Journal says.
Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of the Heywood murder during a one-day trial in August 2012. According to Chinese state media, Gu lured Heywood to the hotel room and poisoned him with cyanide.
The Journal investigation, based on interviews with current and former British officials and close friends of the murdered Briton, found that a person Mr. Heywood met in 2009 later acknowledged being an MI6 officer to him. Mr. Heywood subsequently met that person regularly in China and continued to provide information on Mr. Bo's private affairs.
According to the BBC, the UK's foreign office said it would not comment on the Wall Street Journal investigation. British foreign minister William Hague had stated in April that Heywood was a government employee "in any capacity."
The BBC adds that sources told the network that if there had been contacts between the businessman and the British goverment, they would have been informal--"he type that might be expected in a small expat community."
Neil Heywood moved to China in the 1990s, and established close ties with senior official Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai. The extent of the relationship remains unclear, yet Heywood is said to have helped Bo's son to attend a renowned British school. Heywood and Gu Kailai reportedly had a business-related falling out before his death, according to Chinese state media.
Heywood's death was first attributed to a heart attack, but officials launched an investigation into the Bo family after police chief Wang Lijun fled to the U.S. consulate in February, and claimed he had told Bo of Gu's involvement in the murder.
The fall of the popular, controversial Bo constitutes one of the largest scandals China's secretive political elite has faced in decades. In September, he was expelled from the country's ruling Communist Party and charged with a series of accusations ranging from corruption to sexual affairs.