JINAN, China - The verdict in the case of China's fallen political star Bo Xilai, due on Sunday, will cap an extraordinary scandal involving bribes, murder, illicit love, political infighting, and a colourful yet tightly controlled trial.
Even before the stunning five-day hearing last month, the downfall of the once-powerful Bo was already the most sensational drama in decades to rock the ruling Communist Party and its prized stability.
Bo, who once ran the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, was one of China's top 25 politicians, a charismatic figure enjoying popular support but his ambition and leftist streak worried leaders.
The scandal that erupted in February 2012 - when Bo's top aide in Chongqing fled to a US consulate with evidence the politician's wife had murdered a British associate - provided the catalyst for his fall.
With factions in the upper echelons of the party reportedly split over how to handle him, a year and a half passed before Bo went to trial, becoming the most high-profile official to do so in decades.
The hearing offered a rare peek into the family life and dealings of a major politician, as the prosecution and defence jousted over charges of bribery and embezzlement totalling 26.8 million yuan (S$5.5 million) and abuse of power.
The alleged ill-gotten goods included a French villa purchased by a Chinese businessman for Bo's wife Gu Kailai through shell companies managed in part by Briton Neil Heywood, whom Gu was convicted of killing. She was jailed last year.
Bo tried to block his deputy Wang Lijun from investigating Gu's role - slapping him on the face and dismissing him from his post - which the prosecution pointed to as abuse of power.