By JEREMY PAGE
BEIJING—A French architect caught up in the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai, the sacked Communist Party official, has been taken into custody in China after returning there from Cambodia to cooperate with a murder investigation into Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, Cambodia Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told The Wall Street Journal.
Patrick Henri Devillers will be held in China for 60 days and then released if he isn’t found to have been involved in any crime, the minister said.
Another person familiar with the matter said Mr. Devillers hadn’t been officially detained, but was being held under guard by Chinese authorities after returning to China on Tuesday night following his release from custody in Cambodia.
France’s Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Beijing had asked to meet Mr. Devillers as soon as possible, and Chinese authorities had agreed in principle. China’s Foreign Ministry and Public Security Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Devillers’ situation is a cause for concern for the French government because China doesn’t have an independent judiciary, and the Gu case is likely to be decided not by the courts, but by the party leadership that controls them, according to diplomats following the case.
The Chinese government announced in April that Mr. Bo—once a rising political star—had been sacked from his party posts while Ms. Gu was in custody as a suspect in a murder investigation into the death of Neil Heywood, a British business consultant.
Mr. Devillers hasn’t been charged or accused of any wrongdoing. He had close personal and business ties for several years with Ms. Gu, after getting to know her and her family in the northeastern city of Dalian where Mr. Bo was mayor in the 1990s.
Mr. Devillers, who is about 52 and has been living in Cambodia for several years, was detained by police there on June 13 in response to an extradition request from China, according to Cambodian officials.
After France urged Cambodia not to act without a sound legal basis, Cambodian authorities said in late June they wouldn’t extradite the Frenchman, but were continuing to investigate him.
Cambodian officials announced Wednesday that Mr. Devillers had returned voluntarily to China to act as a “witness” in the investigation into Ms. Gu’s case. Western diplomats at the time said they expected him to be treated as a free man upon his return.
But Mr. Khieu, the Cambodian Information Minister, said Thursday: “China promised to detain him 60 days until September. He will be allowed to be free if China finds he isn’t involved with the cases.”
Cambodia’s police took the unusual step late Thursday of releasing a video interview with Mr. Devillers, apparently recorded shortly before his departure from Cambodia.
“Now I’m leaving for Shanghai this evening, a stop before probably following on to Beijing to answer… to go and cooperate in the case of the investigation into Gu Kailai,” Mr. Devillers tells an unidentified interviewer. “I reiterate that I’m leaving freely to this destination.”
Mr. Devillers is then filmed going through passport control at Phnom Penh airport’s VIP area.
Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, said Friday that Mr. Devillers told French officials before leaving Cambodia that he was traveling voluntarily to China after making a deal with the Chinese government and would be at the disposal of Chinese judicial authorities.
“Our embassy in China requested as soon as he left for China to meet Mr. Devillers as soon as possible. The Chinese authorities have agreed in principle. We now expect this meeting to take place very soon,” said Mr. Valero. “We have daily contacts with the Chinese authorities both in Beijing and in Paris”
Mr. Devillers and Mr. Heywood were both part of a small circle of friends and advisers around Ms. Gu in Dalian in the 1990s, according to several people who knew them all.
Ms. Gu and Mr. Devillers were both consulting partners for Horas Consultancy, a company that advised businesses investing in Dalian and elsewhere in China in the 1990s, according to that firm’s publicity material.
The Frenchman, who was married to a woman from Dalian for several years, also shared a residential address with Ms. Gu in the southern British city of Bournemouth between 2000 and 2003, according to British public records.
Ms. Gu, under the name Horus Kai, which she used in her foreign business dealings and on a book she wrote, and Mr. Devillers are also both listed as directors of a company called Adad Ltd. that was set up in the town of Poole, near Bournemouth, in 2000 and dissolved in 2003, according to the British public records.
Neither Mr. Bo nor Ms. Gu have been reachable for comment since the government announced they were under investigation.
—Sun Narin in Phnom Penh and Geraldine Amiel in Paris contributed to this article.R Soft Web Hosting