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LIVE: Chinese court jails GSK investigator Peter Humphrey for 2½ years on privacy charges

Humphrey sentenced 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

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 9:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 11:47pm

11.20pm: The couple's son, Harvey, 19, said "They were allowed to speak and present defence. I'm very sad about the court's verdict but I hope the authorities would take into account of their poor health. I'm absolutely exhausted. I'm going home tonight."

11.07pm: The couple have five days to appeal this verdict. Court is adjourned.

11.05pm: The court sentences Yu to two years and in prison on charges of "illegally obtaining private information", and a fine of 150,000 yuan. 

11.00pm: 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.

10.30pm: The verdict will be released after the court rests.

10.20pm: In her short closing statement, Yu expresses regret over their crimes and begs the court to forgive her husband.

10.10pm: In his closing statement, Humphrey talks about his childhood fascination and respect for China. Growing up in a poor family, he saw the China in 1979 and wanted to be a part of its development. He says he has always supported anti-corruption in China, and many of his projects dealt with helping different companies detect internal corruption and fraud. He and his wife wanted to give back to the Chinese community but failed due to their lack of understanding on the 2009 criminal law reform on privacy. Humphrey apologises for disobeying the law and expresses regret. "My wife and I still love and respect China passionately." He hopes the court will accept their apology.

9.15pm: The prosecution maintains that the duo violated citizens' rights. "Before a court ruling, those they investigated have not been deemed corrupt, how can you say the parties you are investigating are corrupt?"

9.00pm: Both defence lawyers argue that Humphrey and Yu's actions have inflicted limited harm on society and do not constitute crimes.

8:15pm: The court rests for 30 minutes.

8:10pm: Yu asks the prosecution for proof that 300 reports out of the 700 used personal information. She also disputes the company's revenue estimated by the prosecution, saying that the prosecution did not calculate for profit after expenses and costs. She shares an anecdote: "Someone saw a thief steal something, but the police said there's no evidence therefore they can't arrest the thief, so the person found the evidence and arrested the thief, then the police came back and said the person broke the law. The public security organ said you violated the thief's rights." 

8.00pm: Humphrey says the duo did not sell personal information, but rather, sold the analysis and research of such information to clients. He added that the company's main service is to investigate internal graft, fraud and help cultivate a good business environment. "They have no other ways of achieving this goal."

7.30pm: The court hearing takes a break, to resume later this evening. 

7.19pm: The prosecution closes with a plea for the sanctity of the private space. "Let's try to consider, if our citizens live in fear in such an environment, how can they feel secure, free or have human rights?"

7.17pm: The prosecution says the couple's crime was particularly egregious, because they committed it over a period of nine years and because they reaped enormous benefits. 

7.15pm: The prosecution closes by saying that the couple has for nine years bought information on citizens' identity and residency, family members, vehicle registration, phone records, overseas travel records and had their staff pretend to be employees, investors, clients, or delivery personnel to obtain further information. They hired agents to tail and monitor citizens to know more about their living habits and movements. 

7.11pm: The court moves to closing arguments. The prosecution begins.

7.09pm: The court concludes the examination of evidence. 

7.08pm: A defence lawyer submits a third letter attesting to the couple's good character, two earlier ones' had already been submitted to the court .

7.03pm: Humphrey asks the prosecution when police received a first complaint. Prosecuters say the case file started on July 1, 2013.  

6.59pm: Reacting to the evidence submitted to the court, both Humphrey and Yu say she never told police they relied on luck. Yu said she did not know about the legal environment after the 2009 criminal law reform on privacy. 

6.54pm: "Our buying of private information was wrong, but it was not a business operation," she reportedly told police. "We have a grey zone in this industry, at the time we used extraordinary channels to buy these citizens' personal information." Yu reportedly said they relied on luck, did not consider the consequences and regretted their actions. 

6.53pm: Yu reportedly told police that they transferred Zhou, Cai and Liu's commission to their US dollar accounts in Hong Kong. 

6.51pm: Cai Zhicheng provided information of about 20 individuals to Humphrey and Yu, according to Yu's statement to police. Cai charged between 1,000 and 1,500 yuan. 

6.49pm: Yu worked with Liu Yu until Liu was detained in 2013, according to the police record. Liu provided hukou information, information on a target's family members, criminal record, overseas travel records, mobile phone records and other information. Liu charged about 800 yuan for an item of information. 

6.46pm: Prosecutors submit Yu's testimony to police in which Yu reportedly said she obtained hukou information, information on a target's family members, criminal record and telephone records from Zhou Hongbo. She paid 2,000 yuan for personal information and ordered 20-30 items every year, she said. 

6.43pm: Prosecutors submit Humphrey's testimony to police in which he reportedly said that he was aware he was operating in a legal grey zone. He was counting on luck and not considering the consequences, he reportedly told police.  

6.37pm: Prosecutors say Shelian company had revenue of 20.96 million yuan between 2005 and 2013. The company earned 830,000 yuan for its work on the Operations Goose, Clown and Blackthorn, prosecutors say. 

6.25pm: The court says on its Weibo post that it will hold a press conference on the trial at 7.30pm. The hearing is still ongoing. 

6.01pm: The prosecution says it documented the use of private information in 27 reports in this set of evidence submitted to the court. It adds that it provided relevant information in the pre-trial hearing. 

5.59pm: The court releases its next transcript. A defence lawyer for Yu says monitoring is only once mentioned in the deposition and it referred to an employee standing outside an office building for over three hours. 

5.55pm: The court rests for a ten minute break. 

5.53pm: A defence lawyer for Humphrey reiterates his client's point. His other lawyer says tailing a target is not necessarily illegal. There are no legal provisions banning the tailing of others to protect one's own legitimate interests, says the lawyer. 

5.50pm: The prosecution says evidence proves that Humphrey tailed a target in Operation Blackthorn. Humphrey says the task was carried out by a third party. 

5.47pm: Humphrey says many of the documents could be duplicates. 

5.44pm: The prosecution submits the fourth set of evidence: Documents, computers and harddrives seized at their residence in Beijing and their office in Shanghai. One harddrive contained 48,849 documents that relate to the charges, one laptop contained 52,234 documents relating to the charges, the prosecution says. 

5.41pm: The prosecuion says it can prove with its evidence that Humphrey and Yu bargained with third parties over the price of private information they acquired. It also says that private information of all citizens is covered by criminal law, not merely information handled by public organs and companies. 

5.01pm: Zhou Hongbo says Humphrey paid thousands and sometimes more than 10,000 yuan for the investigation of a target, which normally lasted between half a month and a full month. 

4.59pm: Cai Zhicheng says he charged Humphrey 1,500 yuan for every piece of information he provided: identity and residency papers, overseas travel records. 

4.57pm: Liu Yu says she was criminally detained in January 2013 for illegally obtaining private information. 

4.52pm: The prosecution submits a third set of evidence to the court: testimony by Humphrey, Yu, testimony by Zhou Hongbo, Liu Yu, Cai Zhicheng.  

4.35pm: After a brief interruption debating the merits of the evidence, the prosecution continues with submitting further elements of the second set evidence: testimony by three more former employees. Humphrey interjects, saying two employees only worked with him only very briefly. 

4.31pm: The prosecution submits a second set of evidence: testimony by four former Shelian employees and a technician who provided repair services to Shelian. 

4.27pm: The prosecution submits the testimony of three foreign executives and a former employee at Shelian. 

4.23pm: The court calls Humphrey back to the stand. 

4.19pm: Asked by a judge whether they would have been able to complete their assignments without private information, Yu says: "More is always better than less."

4.17pm: Asked by a judge, Yu says she did not sign contracts with Zhou, Liu or Cai, because the amount of money involved was too small. 

4.16pm: The defence teams end questioning. The judged ask some additional questions. 

4.15pm: Yu accepts the charges in as much as she bought information from a third party, but rejects them saying that she did not sell the information, but only used it to provide analysis to clients. 

4.12pm: Yu reiterates she obtained information from the client, from online sources or third parties. 

4.09pm: The presiding judge asks Humphrey's lawyer whether he wants to ask Yu any questions. Asked, Yu describes the workflow of a typical investigation. 

4.07pm: Yu tells the court how they used overseas travel records, including to Hong Kong, to trace fraud. 

3.44pm: Asked whether every report contained private information, Yu says those containing private information were few and much even less since 2011. 

3.42pm: Yu's lawyer asks her what kind of information she obtained. Yu says 90 - 95 per cent of information was identity and residency information, which, she says, was required to find out whether a client's employee used a relative to open their own company. 

3.36pm: Yu's lawyer asks her whether the information she acquired was generic or targeted towards certain people. Yu says she acquired information to prevent and deal with internal corruption in companies and not use this information for individual profit.

"We helped clients solve problems that public security organs could now solve, making them more transparent and open," she says. 

3.34pm: Yu's lawyer asks Yu whose personal information she had obtained. The presiding judge interjects that such this has been dealt with at a pre-trial hearing. If these names are to be named again, then the current hearing could not be public, the judge says.  

3.30pm: Yu is now questioned by her own defence lawyer. When asked, Yu says she emigrated to the US in 1981 aged 28. She returned to China in 1999. 

3.29pm: The prosecution ends its questioning of Yu. 

3.17pm: Asked by prosecutor show she paid Liu, Cai and Zhou, Yu says she wants to clarify that she they mostly provided company records. She then says she sometimes transferred their commissions to their private accounts in Hong Kong or the mainland. 

3.16pm: Asked by prosecutors, Yu says they charged clients between 20,000 and 200,000 for individual reports. 

3.15pm: Yu says they have pretended to be business contacts. 

3.14pm: Prosecutors ask Yu whether she has ever impersonated a client, an investor or a relative of a target to obtain information. 

3.10pm: Yu says she only rarely assigned another company to tail a target. "95 per cent of our employees' work was done in the office, investigating online," she said. 

3.09pm: "I have lived abroad for a very long time, my US phone number and address can be found in the yellow pages, it is very easy in the US to find such information," replies Yu. 

3.07pm: "Do you think it would touch your privacy if your husband's or son's private information was sold and bought?", asks the prosecutor. 

3.07pm: "We did not know obtaining these pieces of information was illegal in China", says Yu. 

3.05pm: Yu says the prosecutor's assumption is incorrect. She says she knew that Zhou Hongbo was a lawyer and that lawyers could obtain information. She says she did not know how Liu and Cai obtained their information.  

3.02pm: Yu says only she and her husband knew about Liu, Zhou and Cai's identities. Prosecutors ask whether she had to go through these agents to obtain information because the information she needed was not publicly available.  

2.59pm: Yu says 90 - 95 per cent of the information she obtained from Liu Yu, Zhou Hongbo and Cai Zhicheng related to targets' identity and residency. Phone and overseas travel records have only become recently available, she says. 

2.55pm: Yu says she never knew that the information she obtained was illegal. She says because she did not know the information's origin, she could not have committed a crime. She says she was not aware that obtaining such information was illegal in mainland China, when it possible to legally obtain the same information in Hong Kong. If she had known she was acting outside the law, she would have destroyed all evidence, she argues. 

2.50pm: Yu says she never tried to bargain down the cost of information. 

2.49pm: Prosecutors ask Yu about the origin of this information. Yu says until 2009 they obtained information from Zhou Hongbo, from 2009 until 2011 from Liu Yu and most recently from Cai Zhicheng. 

2.48pm: Asked by prosecutors, Yu admitted to using citizens' private information. 

2.48pm: The prosecution asks Yu whether they had compiled about 700 reports. Yu affirms, but says some reports were also compiled abroad. 

2.45pm: The prosecution asks whether Yu had problems when she registered their company in Shanghai, Shelian. Yu says they tasked an agency to handle the paperwork. She says she had no problems in the registration process.  

2.42pm: Asked whether the charges are accurate, Yu says she would like to clarify two points: Firstly, the price of 800 to 2,000 yuan for piece of information is only an approximation. Secondly, they did not sell public information, but used it to create reports. She says they have never bought information for their own benefit. 

2.38pm: The presiding judge asks Yu whether she has clearly heard and understood the charges brought against her. She says she has heard and understood every word of them. 

2.27pm: The court releases a photo of Yu Yingzeng on its Weibo account:

2.24pm: Yu Yingzeng is now called to testify. 

2.23pm: Humphrey says he did not use every bit of private information in his reports for clients. Some elements of private information helped him as background knowledge when compiling such reports. 

2.20pm: A judge asks Humphrey whether he had signed contracts with the companies that provided him with personal information. Humphrey says he did not sign contracts for individual assignments, but had signed framework contracts relating to secrecy and conflicts of interest. 

2.18pm: A judge asks Huphrey whether he consulted his wife Yu over each decision to obtain private information. Humphrey says they sometimes discussed what kind of information they should try to obtain. 

2.16pm: Judges now direct questions to Humphrey.

2.14pm: Yu's lawyer asks Humphrey when he actually tailed a target. Humphrey says he never tailed targets, but, in rare cases, commissioned another company. In one such case, Operation Blackthorn, he proved that a Finnish company's general manager was defrauding the company and saved it from incurring tens of millions of US dollars in damages, he says. 

2.07pm: Yu's defence lawyer asks Humphrey whether clients transferred his commissions to his private or to a company bank account. Humphrey says the commissions were transferred to the company's bank accounts, either in Hong Kong or Shanghai. 

1.33pm: The court hearing resumes. 

1.28pm: The court is about to resume its session. 

12.51pm: The court rests until 1.30pm. 

12.48pm: These companies hired him to investigate merges, the hiring of senior executives and corrupt practices of employees, he says.  

12.47pm: Humphrey says most of his clients were large or medium-sized companies. Most were foreign companies, but some were Chinese. They operated in manufacturing and finance or were law firms, he says. 

12.47pm: The court directs a defence lawyer for his wife Yu Yingzeng to ask Humphrey questions. The lawyer asks Humphrey about his typical clients. 

12.45pm: A defence lawyer asks Humphrey whether he knew where the private information he paid for came from. Humphrey says he did not know how the information was obtained. He says he was aware that law firms could obtain some information. 

12.41pm: A defence lawyer asks Humphrey whether he paid for services or private information from Liu Hong, Cai Zhicheng and Zhou Hongbo. Humphrey says he paid for services. They provided him with feedback and additional information, he says. 

12.40pm: The court releases another transcript from its morning session. 

12.39pm: The court rests until 1.30pm. 

12.37pm: Humphrey says Liu Hong, Cai Zhicheng and Zhou Hongbo run their own companies and that he had now way of auditing their operations. 

12.33pm: Humphrey says he needed personal information to verify the identity of targets as, for example, company shareholders and to check whether they had conflicts of interests in their business dealings. He also needed the information to prove that targets were in contact with certain other individuals.  

12.31pm: Humphrey says companies approached him to investigate their suspicions for fraud and graft. He says 90 per cent of such allegations proved correct. 

12.28pm: Humphrey says he estimated about half of his reports contained some private information.  

12.26pm: Humphrey says 700 is a correct approximate estimate of the number of reports he produced for clients since 2004. He says he only started a numbered filing system in 2005. 

12.22pm: Humphrey says his company's business model has not changed much since he started the company in 2004. Internal graft and corruption increasingly became a focus of his inquiries, he says. He adds that over the last years he increasingly relied on interviews and public information. 

12.21pm: Humphrey's defence team is now questioning him. 

12.18pm: Prosecutors ask Humphrey if he was detained by Shanghai police in his office. Humphry affirms. The prosecution ends its questioning of Humphrey. 

12.17pm: Prosecutors ask Humphrey about one report for which he charged 2.64 million yuan and used nine elements of private information. Humphrey says he spent almost a year working on the project. 

12.10pm: Prosecutors ask Humphrey how much he charged for his reports. Humphrey says the price depended on the amount work the reports required and that his earlier statement saying reports cost between 40,000 and 50,000 yuan was just an approximation. 

12.06pm: Prosecutors ask Humphrey whether he thinks that private information could be freely sold on the market. Humphrey says he has never engaged in the business of trading private information. 

12.04pm: Prosecutors ask Humphrey whether he changed his work tactics when Liu Yu was detained. Humphreys says he had learned in March 2013 that Liu had gotten into trouble. He says he gradually changed his company's operations, but had not completed the changes by the time he was himself detained later in the year. 

12.01pm: Humphrey says he was aware that he had obtained private information from citizens after 2009, when a new law on the secrecy of private information was enacted. 

12.00pm: Asked by prosecutors, Humphrey says he paid for such private information. He says he saved much of that information on his hard drives. He says all of his company's financial matters were handled by his wife. 

11.56am: Humphrey says he and, his wife Yu and a former foreign employee have all contacted these three individuals. 

11.54am: Information provided to him included targets' identity and residency information, information on their family members, overseas travel records and mobile phone records. 

11.52am: Humphrey says he would call the three individuals, each of whom runs their own company, and pass on targets' names. In the beginning they would provide reports, but later they became more and more lazy, says Humphrey. 

11.50am: Prosecutors ask Humphrey whether he and his wife have paid for 256 items of information provided by Liu Yu, Cai Zhicheng, and Zhou Hongbo. He says he doesn't recall specific numbers but says it is possible they have used these services for as many times. 

11.49am: Prosecutors ask Humphrey about an "Operation Clown" and "Operation Goose" for two German clients. He replies that he remembers these projects, but struggles to recall details. 

11.42am: The court releases images of the prosecution and defense on its Weibo account:

11.42am: Humphrey says he could not remember whether he paid for information in this particular case. He says he acquired information from Zhou Hongbo and Liu Yu about a target who worked in Shandong and travelled frequently to Hong Kong. The client wanted to know what the target was doing in Hong Kong and what assets the target had in the territory. Humphrey says he commissioned another company in this case. 

11.36am: Humphrey is asked whether he paid to obtain a target's mobile phone records while conducting the "Blackthorn" project conducted for a Finnish company. 

11.34am: The prosecutor asks whether Humphrey recalled a project called "Blackthorn". 

11.30am: Humphrey says he made sure facts, analysis and conjecture were clearly differentiated in his reports to clients. 

11.28am: Prosecutor asks if Humphrey posed as a family member or client to interview target companies. He says he had sometimes used aliases in field investigations or telephone calls.

11.25am: Humphrey says the English word "monitoring" covers a wide range of activities including reading news reports. 

11.23am: The prosecutor asks Humphrey whether he has ever tailed or monitored a citizen. Humphrey says he has never provided such services. He says he has helped clients find Chinese companies that could provide such services. 

11.22am: Court releases a photo from the hearing on its Weibo page.

11.20am: The prosecutor asks Humphrey why his testimony differed from what he told police earlier over the price of individual pieces of information. Humphrey says he never told police the exact price of each piece of information he had obtained.

11.15am: The prosecutor asks Humphrey if he had bought large amounts of citizens' individual information. Humphrey says he contracted other companies to provide such information, paying them a service fee. 

11.14am: Humphrey lays out how he investigated for clients: internet searches, information provided by clients, interviews, on-site inspections. If that information proved to insufficient, he says he contracted other companies to obtain information, but such information accounts for a very small part of his services to clients. 

11.10am: Humphrey says he has worked for several hundred clients between 2004 and 2013. 

11.01am: Humphrey: "In general, our services are to help reduce risks, especially in terms of fraud and corruption, for our clients."

Humphrey testifies in English. Quotes are translated from the court's Chinese-language transcript.

11.00am: Humphrey: "Sometimes clients would raise requests we can't handle ourselves, and we would look for companies which could accomplish it for clients."

10.58am: He also researched industries to help clients understand the business environment and evaluated clients' employees, partners, suppliers in situations potentially involving corruption of fraud. 

10.57am: He said he provided background investigations on companies and potential hires for clients. 

10.56am: Humphrey lists the services he provided to clients. 

10.54am: Humphrey explains that he had chose a different name for his Chinese company because the Industrial and Commercial Administration in Shanghai did not approve ChinaWhys as the company's name. 

10.52am: Questioned by the prosecution, Humprey explains how he first registered ChinaWhys as a company in Hong Kong in late 2003 and then in May 2004 established his Shanghai-based firm, Shelian.

10.49am: Court releases a photo from the hearing on its Weibo page. 

10.43am: Prosecutor questions Humphrey: "Are the facts as laid down in the charges against you accurate?" Humphrey replies: "In general, they look correct, but as for the charges, I don't understand Chinese law, I am therefore not in a position to comment." 

Prosecutor asks again if Humphrey has objections to the charges. Humphrey says he does not object to the charges. 

10.16am: Prosecutor: between April 2009 and July 2013, the two defendants obtained 256 items of information including identity documents, travel records, mobile phone numbers from three Chinese sources, who are facing separate investigations. They paid between 800 and 2,000 yuan per piece of information and resold the information to foreign and domestic clients. 

10.11am: The presiding prosecutor says Humphrey and Yu were criminally detained on July 11, 2013, and formally arrested on August 16, 2013. 

10.02am: Their son Harvey Humphrey, 19, is in the court room along with consular officials. Last month, Chinese authorities backtracked on plans to hold the trial in secret. 

9.31am: The hearing begins, the court says on its Weibo account.  

8.45am: A prison van carrying Humphrey and Yu arrived at the court on Hongqiao Road

The British corporate investigator Peter Humphrey and his Chinese-American wife Yu Yingzeng are standing trial in Shanghai on criminal charges of "illegally obtaining private information".

The Shanghai First Intermediate People's Court is hearing the case, which marks the first time foreign nationals are prosecuted in China for conducting an illegal investigation.

The charges relate to a probe by ChinaWhys, the risk consultancy firm run by Humphrey and Yu, into the origin of a sex tape that was sent to the board of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoKlineSmith last year.

The tape showed Mark Reilly, the head of GSK's China division, having sex with his girlfriend. Along with the tape came allegations that GSK bribed Chinese doctors. The same allegations were shared with Chinese authorities in anonymous emails. 

Chinese authorities are investigating GSK over the allegations. They have not officially connected the trial to the graft probe, but Humphrey has linked the investigation with his own arrest.

He said the company misled him on the allegations, saying they were untrue. 

Humphrey and Yu investigated Vivian Shi, the former head of GSK's government affairs in China. Shi, the daughter of a Shanghai municipal government official, had been fired in 2012 for falsifying travel expenses. Shi has denied being the whistleblower. 

Humphrey, 58, and Yu, 61, were detained in July last year and were later charged with "illegally obtaining citizens' private information". Humphrey apologized on national television for breaking Chinese law. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to prison terms of up to three years.

GSK later said it found evidence of wrongdoing. Reilly has since been dismissed from his position and assisting the Chinese investigation into the bribery of doctors. He is in China and barred from leaving the country.

In May, the Ministry of Public Security said it has completed its investigation into GSK and passed the case to prosecutors in Hunan province. Reilly along with two local executives bribed law enforcement officials, doctors and hospitals, police said at the time. The GSK executives later systematically covered up their actions, police said.  

VIDEO: Peter Humphrey's confession aired on national television in August 2013:

 

 

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