Body found near site of Chinese tycoon's chopper crash in France

BORDEAUX (AFP) - French police said a body was discovered on Saturday near the site of a helicopter crash that is thought to have killed a Chinese tycoon and a French winemaker, whose remains were never found.

The body was found on the banks of the Dordogne river in southwest France, some 10 kilometres from the spot where the helicopter crashed into the river in December carrying four people.

A paramilitary police source said the body was "unrecognisable" but that it had not been ruled out that it could be one of the missing victims of the crash.

Search efforts have been ongoing to find the remains of Lam Kok, a 46-year-old Chinese tea-and-property magnate, his interpreter and financial advisor Peng Wang, and James Gregoire, a French entrepreneur and the pilot of the helicopter.

The crash occurred while they had been on a celebratory aerial tour of a chateau estate that the Chinese businessman had just bought from Gregoire.

The Chinese magnate and his wife bought the Chateau de la Riviere and its 65 hectares of vineyards for a reported 30 million euros (S$51 million) with the aim of turning it into an elite tea- and wine-tasting retreat.

The wreckage of the Robinson R44 helicopter, which is used by the police and army in several countries, was located a few days after the crash in seven metres of water.

Only the body of Lam Kok's 12-year-old son Shun Yu Kok was found, inside the wrecked helicopter.

Gregoire himself had bought the property in 2003 - a year after the previous owner died in a plane crash.

Wealthy Chinese have developed a taste for fine French wines, and their buying power has been credited with pushing prices for certain vintages to record levels.

In recent years they have increasingly taken to buying French vineyards as well.

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