Xu Ming: prawn seller turned key witness against China's Bo

Xu Ming: prawn seller turned key witness against China's Bo
Xu Ming

BEIJING - Bo Xilai's chief accuser at his corruption trial in China is a former prawn seller said to have made more than a billion dollars since linking up with the politician in the 1990s.

Born in April 1971 in the industrial port city of Dalian, Xu Ming spent his childhood in the countryside, the Hong Kong-based Mirror Books website said.

According to the website of Shide Group, the conglomerate Xu founded, he studied international trade at university.

His first job was a salesman in charge of Japanese clients at a prawn exporting firm in Dalian, according to Mirror Books, and he later established his own seafood trading company, although it was not a great success.

Shide Group was set up in 1992, around the same time that according to the Wall Street Journal Xu was introduced to Bo Xilai, then Dalian's mayor, and his wife Gu Kailai by a Taiwanese-American businessman, and they developed a close relationship.

The firm grew into a national conglomerate in the following eight years thanks to local government policies and contracts linked to Bo's plan to revamp Dalian into a shipping, fashion and information technology hub to impress the Party's top leadership, the paper said.

Shide now operates in sectors including construction material, petrochemical, finance, sports and home appliances, although Xu is in custody and facing charges of illegal business actions, Bo's trial heard.

Bo is accused of accepting 20.7 million yuan ($3.4 million) in bribes from Xu, who testified for the prosecution on Thursday.

After Gu expressed a desire to buy a villa in France he provided $3.2 million for her to do so, he said, according to transcripts of evidence provided by the court in Jinan.

Xu gave the family millions more over the years, including paying off a credit card bill of more than $50,000 run up by Bo's son Bo Guagua, and buying the boy an 80,000 yuan ($13,000) Segway scooter, the court heard.

Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family assistant, said in a testimony that Xu's company paid for flights and hotels for 40 of Bo Guagua's friends at Harvard University when they visited China in 2011.

He paid for a private jet to take Bo Guagua from Dubai to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and back in 2011 at a cost of $80,000, the court heard, and his tickets to Germany to watch the 2006 World Cup.

On another trip to Africa, also funded by Xu, Gu said her son bought the meat of a "rare animal".

"Guagua said it could be eaten raw, while Bo Xilai said it should be steamed," Gu said, according to the transcript. "They argued and Guagua was upset, but in the end it was still steamed. We ate that meat for one month."

Xu was so close to the Bo family he accompanied Gu and her son on a trip to Britain more than 14 years ago to scout out schools for the boy, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On its website Shide Group said Xu was listed as the 85th richest person in China in 2010, worth $1.6 billion.

In a bid to boost his personal and business profile, Xu bought his local football team in 2000 - a common strategy for business titans in China.

Then China's most successful team, Xu changed their name to Dalian Shide - but the club were left in financial limbo after he was detained, and they played their last game at the end of the 2012 season.

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