Chinese authorities have charged a British man and his American wife with illegally buying and selling private information on Chinese citizens.
Peter Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu were arrested in July, apparently in connection with China's investigation into alleged bribery by the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
In explaining their arrest Tuesday, officials said the two private investigators obtained information including property records, travel and household information on Chinese citizens. They said the couple sold the information for "high prices" to unnamed multinational companies, law firms, and others.
Humphrey, a former journalist with the Reuters news agency, was seen in handcuffs on state television Tuesday admitting he sometimes used illegal means to obtain personal information. The Xinhua news agency says Humphrey and Yu "confessed to the crime without concealing anything." There was no immediate comment by British or American authorities.
The couple ran the ChinaWhys Ltd. risk management company, which is reported to have done business with corporate clients, including GSK. State media reports on Tuesday made no mention of that link.
The ChinaWhys website (http://chinawhys.com) says the firm offered several different services, including vetting potential business partners, employee screening and fraud and corruption investigations.
China has separately detained four executives of GlaxoSmithKline for alleged bribery as part of a series of Chinese investigations of foreign companies accused of illicit dealings in the country.
Chinese officials suspect the executives were bribing doctors, hospitals, government officials and others to boost sales and raise prices of GSK pharmaceutical products in China.