Saturday, August 9, 2014

China: British Investigator, US Citizen Wife Found Guilty of Illegally Obtaining Chinese Data

According to The Latin American Tribune, a Shanghai court has convicted a British corporate investigator and his US-citizen wife and business partner of illegally obtaining Chinese citizens’ private information on behalf of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

The court sentenced Peter Humphrey to 2.5 years in prison, while imposing a two-year prison term for Yu Yingzeng.

Authorities said they plan to deport Humphrey.

The case against the two foreign investigators is linked to a corruption scandal involving Britain’s GSK, which was accused last year, along with other multinational pharmaceutical firms, of bribing Chinese hospitals and doctors into using or promoting its products.

GSK hired the consulting firm that Humphrey and Yu ran, ChinaWhys, to conduct an investigation into a former employee who the drugmaker believed had sent e-mails containing the allegations to Chinese authorities.

After they completed their report, Chinese authorities arrested the couple on July 11, 2013, on charges of illegally obtaining 256 private records of Chinese citizens, including telephone numbers and identification cards.

Prosecutors said Friday that Humphrey and Yu paid between $130-$330 per document, which were provided by three Chinese sources that are being tried separately.

COMMENT: Humphrey, 58, acknowledged that he and Yu sometimes operated in a legal “grey area,” but said they did not know they were doing anything illegal.

“In other countries, we were able to conduct similar checks, including personal information and private transactions, legally through courts,” Yu said. “If we had known that it was illegal, my husband and I would have destroyed all traces of this information.”

Chinese police in May accused three former GSK executives, including Britain’s Mark Reilly, head of Glaxo’s Chinese operations, of orchestrating the bribery scheme in China.

The GSK scandal is the biggest involving a foreign company in China since a 2009 investigation into British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto that ended with four executives of that multinational being sentenced to between seven and 14 years behind bars.

Humphrey and Yu are the first foreigners sentenced to prison terms in China for conducting illegal investigations.