Xu Ming, one of China’s richest businessmen before he was caught in the downfall of prominent politician Bo Xilai, has died in prison, local media reported.
Xu, 44, died of a heart attack in a penitentiary in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, on Friday, and his ashes were taken to the northeastern port city of Dalian on Sunday, the New York Times said, citing a report from financial news magazine Caixin.
He was to be released in September 2016, the newspaper said, citing reports from Caixin and Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po.
Forbes listed Xu as the country’s eighth-richest person in 2005.
His fortune was closely associated with the rise of Bo, who rose through the ranks of the Communist Party’s leadership.
When Bo was mayor of Dalian, the city government gave Xu lucrative contracts.
Xu’s Shide Group expanded into building materials and real estate and in 1999 bought Dalian’s championship soccer team from Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group.
When Bo was indicted for corruption in 2013, prosecutors charged that he had received millions of dollars in payoffs from Xu, including a villa on the French Riviera.
Xu was also accused of paying for extravagant trips for Bo’s son, including one to Africa.
Xu maintained close ties to many prominent leaders, including Bo’s rivals.
In Beijing, Xu shared an office floor with the wife of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and was a co-investor in several businesses with Wen family members, The New York Times reported.
Close associates said he had dated Wen’s daughter, Wen Ruchun.
“He was a public relations genius,” Larry Cheng, one of Xu’s longtime business partners, told the newspaper in 2013.
“He was helping everyone in the leadership. He knew just who to get close to and how to do it.”
It is not known whether an autopsy was performed.
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