China has formally launched a criminal probe into disgraced former politician Bo Xilai, after he was stripped of his last official position.
The decision to strip Bo Xilai of immunity from prosecution to face charges related to Neil Heywwod's murder could have major consequences.
Rumours of another power struggle in China after the man expected to be named its next president has not been seen in public for 10 days.
The British businessman whose death sparked one of China's biggest political scandals had links to UK secret intelligence services, the Wall Street Journal (£) is reporting.
An investigation by the paper claimed that Neil Heywood, who was killed in November last year, provided information to MI6 about the family of ousted Communist Party leader Bo Xilai.
Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted in August of Heywood's murder.
China's leaders have formally expelled politician Bo Xilai from the party, paving the way for his criminal prosecution, state media said today.
China's ruling Communist Party ratified the expulsion from the party of Bo, former Chongqing party boss, state news agency Xinhua said.
According to state news agency Xinhua, China has formally launched a criminal probe into former senior politician Bo Xilai.
"The Supreme People's Procuratorate has decided to put Bo Xilai under investigation for alleged criminal offences," Xinhua said in a brief English-language report.
China has begun a criminal investigation in to disgraced former politician Bo Xilai according to Xinhua news agency.
The National People's Congress Standing Committee confirmed it had approved a decision to remove Bo as a deputy - but gave no further details. Communist Party leaders are trying to resolve the country's political scandal as they prepare for the transition of power to the next generation of leaders.
- Bo had been a rising political star and his toppling exposed sharp infighting in the party's uppermost ranks
- Bo's downfall has been spectacular: His wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood
- His former right-hand man was accused of taking bribes, abusing power and trying to defect to the United States, among other crimes
China has stripped disgraced politician Bo Xilai of his last official position - formally expelling him from parliament. The move paves the way for formal criminal charges to be laid against him because it removes his immunity from prosecution.
The US educated son of disgraced political leader Bo Xilai has defended his father against charges of taking bribes and having improper sexual relationships.
In a statement posted on the microblog site Tumblr, Bo Guagua said: "Personally, it is hard for me to believe the allegations that were announced against my father, because they contradict everything I have come to know about him throughout my life.
"Although the policies my father enacted are open to debate, the father I know is upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty."
Bo confirmed the statement, posted on Saturday, with Reuters.
Mr Guagua's statement came a day after China's ruling Communist Party accused his father of abusing his power, taking huge bribes and other crimes.
Chinese state media has announced that disgraced senior Communist party member Bo Xilai has been expelled from the party, and will face criminal charges of corruption, abuse of power, bribe taking and improper relations with a number of women.