Peter Humphrey and wife Yu Yingzeng sentenced to at least two years in prison
Pair admitted to obtaining personal information on Chinese citizens by illegal means
They did work on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline's China arm
The drug giant faces allegations of bribery
An expatriate corporate investigator has been sentenced to two and a half years in a Chinese jail after being found guilty of stealing and selling personal information for profit, Chinese state media has reported. His wife and business partner was also found guilty of the same charge and was handed a two-year prison sentence.
Briton Peter Humphrey, who has been in detention since July 2013, appeared in a Shanghai court on Friday at the same time as his wife and business partner Yu Yingzeng. Yu is a Chinese-born U.S. citizen.
READ: GSK-linked investigator’s trial begins
According to a court statement quoted by official news agency Xinhua, the pair confessed to obtaining private information about Chinese citizens by “illegal means.”
They said they would write reports based on this information and sell them to multinational companies.
In court, Humphrey said that he had conducted a two-month investigation on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline’s China management into who had filed formal allegations of bribery against the company, Xinhua reported.
Chinese police have accused GSK executives in China of presiding over a web of corruption and bribery. GSK has said its China business is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
READ: China scandal takes toll on Glaxo
In a July 3 statement, GSK said it had hired Humphrey’s firm in April 2013 to conduct an investigation following a serious breach of privacy and security related to the company’s China general manager.
Humphrey is a veteran corporate detective – an investigator, similar to a private detective, but one which sniffs out corporate malfeasance – who spent more than 20 years as a foreign correspondent with Reuters, including stints in Beijing and Eastern Europe.
ChinaWhys, the investigations consultancy that Yu and Humphrey established, assisted in assessing corporate risks, conducting background checks and investigating allegations of corruption and fraud.
The couple’s son, who attended court, had told CNN that he believed it would be easier for his parents if they pleaded guilty.
“I’m hoping it will be a situation where they plead guilty and they go for a mitigation defense strategy, and just try to make it as lenient a sentencing as possible,” he said before the trial.