News / Asia

China Prosecutors Charge GSK-linked Investigators

An internal court video shows British investigator Peter Humphrey arriving at a courtroom after a lunch break, during his trial at Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court, August 8, 2014.
An internal court video shows British investigator Peter Humphrey arriving at a courtroom after a lunch break, during his trial at Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court, August 8, 2014.
Reuters

Chinese prosecutors on Friday charged a British investigator and his American wife with illegally obtaining private information in a case that could be key to a bribery investigation against GlaxoSmithKline.

Peter Humphrey and Yu Yingzeng ran risk consultancy ChinaWhys, whose clients included GSK, and their testimony is being closely watched for any comments on the British drugmaker.

The couple's arrest over a year ago coincided with a government probe into allegations that GSK staff had funneled hundreds of millions of pounds through travel agencies to bribe local doctors and health officials to boost sales and raise prices.

The prosecutors, laying out the charges at the start of the trial, said the couple had illegally obtained more than 200 items of private information, including household registration data, real estate documents and phone records, and then re-sold the data. GSK was not mentioned in the charge sheet.

According to the court's official microblog, Yu said she did know that the third-party consultants ChinaWhys had hired to get the data had done so illegally.

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

While Chinese authorities have not openly connected the arrest of the couple to the GSK probe, Humphrey said in a note last year when he was already in detention that he felt “cheated” by GSK, adding that the drugmaker had not shared the full details of the bribery allegations.

A GSK spokesman has declined to comment on the trial. The drugmaker said in July that the issues relating to its China business were “very difficult and complicated.”

Foreign reporters were given unusual access to the trial after lobbying by the U.S. and British embassies.

The court's microblog was updated regularly. A television in the media room also momentarily broadcast a grainy image which showed Humphrey, dressed in a polo t-shirt and jacket, sitting down inside the courtroom. He appeared to look weary.

The couple's son, Harvey, was also in the courtroom with embassy officials.

Corporate data in demand

The trial has unnerved China's risk consultancy community, whose members are much in demand by multinationals and foreign investors for information on potential partners or firms in China, where such data is not easily available.

It also coincides with a growing number of Chinese anti-trust probes that have seen authorities raid offices of Western firms, highlighting the obstacles foreign companies face in navigating China's murky business world.

Foreign firms must adhere to anti-corruption laws while operating in China amid more stringent enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and an increase in the number of Chinese firms involved in overseas deals.

Humphrey is expected to plead guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 3 years in jail. A verdict in the trial could take up to a month.

He worked for Reuters as a journalist in the 1980s and 1990s, and has previously apologized on state television for breaking any Chinese law.

In testimony read out in court, Humphrey said the due diligence services offered by ChinaWhys largely relied on publicly available records and interviews with executives.

“For projects that required background checks, we engaged a third-party consultancy that provided household registration data. We were only paying for their services; we never purchased or obtained such data directly ourselves,” he said, according to a transcript released by the court's official microblog.

Humphrey also said he had not sold the private information obtained.

China has in recent years moved to tighten its privacy laws. In 2009, it amended its criminal code to ban the transfer, sale or gathering of Chinese citizens' information by government firms and companies involved in telecoms, transportation, education and medical treatment.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs