The plastics industry has made an appearance at the high-profile trial of Chinese political boss Bo Xilai, with testimony from Xu Ming, the chairman of profile extrusion giant Dalian Shide Group and, allegedly, one of the major funders of the Bo family's jet-set lifestyle.
Bo, the former Communist Party boss of Chongqing and a Politburo member, is on trial for accepting bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power, in a case that's received worldwide media attention and is perhaps China's highest profile trial of a political figure in decades.
Xu's role as a financier of the Bo family received a lot of attention in the first two days of testimony, beginning Aug. 22.
Testimony and government statements included allegations that the plastics businessman provided $3 million to help buy a villa in France for members of the Bo family, helped pay for family travel to Europe and Africa and helped support Bo's son's college expenses.
"We've been long-term friends with Xu Ming… 20-some years…," said Bo's wife Gu Kailai, in videotaped testimony to the court. She said Xu paid for things like plane tickets for the Bo family and gave them presents.
She also said Bo facilitated Shide's acquisition of the Dalian professional soccer team, but Bo denied it according to court transcripts.
Gu was convicted last year of murdering a British businessman in China after her partnership with him turned sour. Bo has tried to discredit his wife's testimony against him by arguing in court that she's mentally unstable, they were estranged and that he was unaware of much of his wife's financial dealings.
Xu reportedly first met Bo and his family when Bo was mayor and party secretary of Dalian, beginning in 1993, and then governor of Liaoning province. Bo was named China's Minister of Commerce in 2004.
Xu built his company from a small business in Dalian exporting shrimp in the early 1990s, and by 2005 was listed by Forbes magazine as China's eighth-richest man.
He first attracted widespread attention in the plastics industry more than a dozen years ago when Dalian Shide placed massive orders worth tens of millions of dollars, for hundreds of profile extrusion lines and related equipment from European suppliers like Cincinnati Extrusion, Reimelt KG, Greiner Extrusionstechnik and Krauss-Maffei.
Several of the European companies and Shide staged a signing ceremony at the NPE trade show in Chicago in 2000, for example. Cincinnati Extrusion set up a factory in Dalian in 2000 but closed it in 2008.
Since that NPE announcement, Shide branched well beyond plastics, into finance, appliances, and sports (although it divested the soccer team in July 2012). Xu became a sought-after speaker at international events.
The trial is not the first time Xu has been linked to Bo's legal problems. In April 2012, reports surfaced that Xu had been detained for "economic crimes," shortly after Bo was removed from his post and disappeared from public view.
At his trial last week, Bo reportedly cross-examined Xu, asking him if Xu had ever told Bo about expensive purchases for Bo's family. Xu said he did not tell Bo about most of those expenses.
Xu Ming's brother Xu Bin has been leading Shide as acting chairman since last year.