British Investigator Goes On Trial In China
A British investigator arrested in China after carrying out a probe for pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (gsk) has gone on trial for breaching the country's privacy laws.
A message posted on a state social media account said Peter Humphrey had accepted the charges against him on the first day of his hearing in Shanghai.
Humphrey, 58, along with his naturalised American wife, Yu Yingzeng, 60, are accused of illegally obtaining Chinese citizens' personal information and selling it to companies including GSK.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
The pair were arrested shortly after completing an internal investigation for GSK - which is now the focus of a separate corruption investigation.
According to the court's official blog, the couple's company, ChinaWhys, purchased phone records, household registration details, and customs information over a four-year period.
Judge Yu Jian said: "The two defendants paid 800 yuan (£80) to 2000 yuan per piece of information. In total, they bought 256 pieces of information."
When asked if the charge was accurate, Humphrey reportedly said: "Generally it looks correct, but in terms of specifics I do not know the Chinese law well, so I cannot comment."
According to an official online report of court proceedings, Humphrey said during cross-examination: "These records are only a small part of our business. Most of our investigations are done using public information and our own wits.
"For some projects, we needed to investigate people's backgrounds.
"We asked these other consulting companies to obtain household registration information and we paid them a service fee. We did not pay them for the information."
Humphrey's work for GSK was not mentioned.
The son of Peter Humphrey expected his parents to plead guilty despite lingering doubts over their guilt.
"I expect my parents to plead guilty. Whether they actually committed an offence or not, it's a grey area, I don't know," Harvey Humphrey told Sky News on Thursday.
"They may have done, but it's a small charge and pleading guilty is a good idea as you normally have a more lenient sentence as a result, and trying to plead not guilty and getting a defence for that in China is very difficult."
"The root of the problem really from where I'm sitting is the way GSK behaved in this matter."
In January last year an email was sent to GSK's UK-based chief executive containing a sex tape of GSK China's general manager Mark Reilly and his Chinese girlfriend.
The email accused Mr Reilly of being behind corruption in the company's China operation.
ChinaWhys was tasked with finding out who had sent the email and how the video had been filmed.
GSK suspected a former senior staff member with political connections, but who has denied being the whistleblower.
Humphrey and his wife were arrested shortly after the report was delivered in June, and the GSK bribery investigation was opened.
The trial continues.