Chinese authorities indicted a foreign couple Sunday for trafficking the personal information of Chinese citizens, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Peter William Humphrey, 58, a British national, and Yu Ying Zeng, 61, an American woman, reportedly confessed to trading personal information after being arrested last August. The husband and wife team worked as private investigators looking into the large-scale GlaxoSmithKline China (GSK) bribery scandal that broke in 2013.
The British drug giant allowed GSK China CEO Mark Reilly to hire the two former journalists via their self-owned investigative company ChinaWhys to find out who sent anonymous e-mails to GSK and the Chinese government alleging bribery at GSK and a sex tape of Reilly and a companion.
Reilly himself is accused of orchestrating massive systemic bribery throughout the company, totaling nearly $150 million illegally. He stepped down last July.
The couple allegedly traded “household registration details, background on family members, [and information on] real estate, vehicles, call log and exit-entry records,” Xinhua said.
They are the first foreigners indicted for private investigating in China. Of their 500 or so private investigations, at least 10 infringed on the privacy rights of Chinese citizens, prosecutors said. Humphrey admitted to buying personal information and following Chinese nationals to gather information. He told investigators he felt “betrayed and used” by GSK China and Reilly, who said the accusations in the anonymous e-mails were false. Humphrey has said, however, his investigation found the allegations to be true.
ChinaWhys states is mission is “to promote transparency, ethical business practices and international governance standards, to mitigate risk and reduce losses, in multinational operations in China and across Asia.”
The couple face a closed trial and diplomats were barred from seeing them in January. The couple’s son says he worries for his parents health. Humphrey suffers from arthritis and has been denied medication while Yu has been denied treatment for kidney trouble and her weight has reportedly fell to less than 90 pounds.
Xinhua, which is widely seen to speak for the Chinese government, called the GSK case “a warning to other multinationals in China that ethics matter.”