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China jails UK-US couple formerly linked with GSK

A British corporate investigator and his American wife, once hired by scandal-hit pharmaceutical giant GSK in China, have been jailed for two-and-a-half years and two years respectively for illegally obtaining private information on Chinese citizens. Peter Humphrey, 58, and his 61-year-old American wife of Chinese origin, Yu Yingzeng, were sentenced by a Shanghai court at the end of a day’s trial, the first case in China involving foreigners breaching its privacy laws.

Former journalist Humphrey, who founded an investigative firm ChinaWhys, was last year hired to probe the source of a sex tape of Mark Reilly — China boss of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — shortly before the British firm became embroiled in bribery allegations. The case unravelled in January 2013 with an email sent to GSK’s London-based CEO Andrew Witty containing a sex tape of Reilly and his girlfriend.

Besides the sentences, the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People’s Court also fined Humphrey USD 34,000 and Yu USD 25,000 for illegally obtaining private information on Chinese citizens, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Humphrey will be deported after serving his jail term.

After the sentences were handed down, the couple’s 19-year-old son Harvey said, ‘I am very sad about the court’s verdict but I hope the authorities will take into account their poor health.’ Changes to China’s criminal law in 2009 made trading in private information a criminal offence.

Humphrey admitted he had been paying contractors for the private information for almost a decade GSK is the most high-profile target amid a wide-ranging crackdown launched by China on several multinationals, including top names like Microsoft, Accenture, Mercedes, Audi besides a host of Japanese firms.

Humphrey and Yu, both acknowledged using ‘illegally obtained private information’ for due diligence reports. However, they put up a defiant defence, telling the court that they did not know it was illegal to hold information such as identity records, phone numbers and overseas travel records on hard drives in their Shanghai office, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. 
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