Phnom Penh - Cambodia's government said on Wednesday that Beijing requested the arrest of a Frenchman for his possible links to a murder case connected to one of China's biggest political scandals in years.
Cambodian authorities on Tuesday acknowledged they had arrested Patrick Devillers, but declined to say why. On Wednesday, Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said China had requested Devillers' arrest because of his possible involvement in the murder in China last November of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Kanharith gave no details on Devillers' alleged involvement, however, and said Cambodia was studying whether or not to extradite him.
Heywood had close relations to the family of Bo Xilai, the ousted former Communist Party chief of the Chinese city of Chongqing. But those ties had soured.
Bo's dismissal in April came after his former police chief fled to a US consulate and divulged suspicions that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in Heywood's death. Gu and a household aide have been named as suspects in the death.
News reports have said that Devillers was closely linked to Bo, Gu and Heywood. It is not clear if he is accused of any crimes in China or elsewhere.
Kanharith said Devillers was living openly in Cambodia and was not in hiding. He said the Foreign and Interior Ministries were studying the case and would decide whether or not to extradite him to China or France.
French embassy officials in Cambodia have said local authorities informed them of the arrest, but that no reason was given.
Devillers, an architect, had helped Bo rebuild the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian when Bo was the city's mayor in the 1990s, The New York Times reported last month.
The Frenchman and Gu were partners in setting up a company in Britain in 2000 to select European architects for Chinese projects and both gave the same address of an apartment in the English city of Bournemouth, the newspaper said.
It cited an unidentified friend of Devillers as saying the architect left China in 2005 and has been living in Cambodia more or less continuously for about six years.
Eric Bosc, deputy to the French Foreign Ministry's spokesman, said on Tuesday that Devillers was arrested on June 13 and that the French consul has had daily visits with him but that the reason for his arrest remains unclear.
China has considerable influence in Cambodia, having provided millions of dollars in aid over the past decade.
In 2009, Cambodia deported 20 members of the Uighur ethnic minority group who said they were fleeing ethnic violence in China's far west and wanted asylum.