JINAN, China — Chinese politician Bo Xilai denied taking $3.5 million in bribes from businessmen and cross-examined one of them with a lawyer's precision Thursday, launching an unexpectedly spirited defense at a trial aimed at capping China's biggest scandal in decades.
Prosecutors ended months of suspense about the details of his charges, rolling out accusations that featured a villa in France, a hot-air balloon project and a football club, giving a glimpse of how colorful corruption can look in China.
Bo's verbal sparring displayed the media-savvy politician's keen sense of how to portray himself well in tough situations. He thanked the judge for letting him speak, asserted that he was pressured into making a confession and was selectively contrite.
"I'm not a perfect man, and not a strong-willed person, I'm willing to take responsibility for that," Bo said. "But as to the basic facts of whether I am guilty or innocent, I must say my piece."
Once the powerful party boss in the megacity of Chongqing, the charismatic Bo fell into disgrace early last year after revelations that his wife had killed a British businessman, and that he had purportedly attempted to cover it up. Thursday marked the first time he was seen in public in 18 months, since shortly after the scandal emerged.