Peter Humphrey, a British private detective, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison in China for his role in the investigation of a corruption scandal inside GlaxoSmithKline, according to the South China Morning Post.
Humphrey’s son previously blamed the drug company for his father’s plight, according to The Telegraph.
Humphrey, 58, and his wife Yu Yingzeng already languished in a Chinese jail for a year before trial. He was charged with accessing private information on Chinese citizens illegally in the course of his investigation of Vivian Shi, GSK’s former government relations manager, and her connections to the Chinese government. You can read a live blog of the Shanghai trial here.
Humphrey was commissioned to investigate Shi after a secretly filmed video showing a GSK executive having sex with his girlfriend inside their private apartment was sent to senior GSK executives. The video was apparently a message targeting Mark Reilly, the British chief of GSK’s China division, who was conducting his own internal company inquiry into whether Chinese employees of GSK had paid bribes to promote the company’s products.
But GSK did not tell Humphrey of the existence of the sex tape or the bribery allegations until weeks after he had started his investigation. The company also did not tell him about a series of detailed emails that a whistleblower had sent GSK executives alleging a bribery scheme.
Instead, GSK asked Humphrey to find out what Shi’s exact links were to China’s government. During his investigation — and his work for other companies — Humphrey allegedly gathered thousands of documents on Chinese nationals, and sold that info to Western corporations. The court found both Humphrey and Yu guilty of violating citizens’ rights.
Here’s how the verdict came down, at the end of a one-day trial, according to the Post:
11.07 pm: The couple have five days to appeal this verdict. Court is adjourned.
11.05 pm: The court sentences Yu to two years and in prison on charges of “illegally obtaining private information”, and a fine of 150,000 yuan.
11.00 pm: The court sentences Humphrey to two years and six months in jail on charges of “illegally obtaining private information”, a fine of 200,000 yuan, and deportation from China after serving the jail term.
10.30 pm: The verdict will be released after the court rests.
A company spokesperson told Business Insider, “GSK China hired ChinaWhys [Humphrey’s company] in April 2013 to conduct an investigation following a serious breach of privacy and security related to the company’s China general manager. They were not hired to investigate the substance of the allegations of misconduct made by the whistleblower.”
Humphrey’s son, 19-year-old Harvey, told The Telegraph, “I do not feel different at all about China. I would not blame this on China. The cause is not the Chinese, it is GSK”:
But GSK allegedly denied to Mr Humphrey and his wife that any of the allegations of bribery in the whistleblower’s emails were true.
“They said the allegations were untrue,” said Harvey. “Then two weeks later they said actually these things did happen. My father would have changed the conditions of the investigation if he had known. He would have investigated the allegations instead of this one person. I do not think as an investigator you would have taken the risk of investigating a whistleblower before you investigated the allegations.”
… “When I saw my dad last Friday, I mentioned GSK once. I mentioned Reilly to him once. He expressed a very low opinion of Reilly.”
GSK fired 20 Chinese staff after the whistleblower emails emerged. GSK says it investigated the claims, but could not verify them specifically. “While some fraudulent behaviour relating to expense claims was found, we did not at that time find evidence to substantiate the specific allegations,” the company said at the time.
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