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Prosecutors have filed charges against British investigator Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Update | ‘We deeply regret breaking the law’: GSK-linked Peter Humphrey and wife formally charged in China

Briton Peter Humphrey and American wife Yu Yingzeng, detained since last year, formally charged with illegally obtaining private information

Prosecutors have filed charges against British investigator Peter Humphrey and his American wife, Xinhua said on Monday, after the couple were detained last year following work they did for British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

In an eight minute news report aired on Monday by state run China Central Television (CCTV), Humphrey said that he and his wife Yu Yingzeng “deeply regret” breaking any Chinese law. He added ChinaWhys would not have worked with GSK if the drugmaker had informed him about the full details of the whistle-blower e-mails.

“It was certainly not our intention to violate Chinese law,” Humphrey, wearing an orange vest over his clothes, said in the interview, which the state broadcaster said was conducted a few days ago in a Shanghai police station.

Humphrey’s apology reiterated a similar statement he made to CCTV in August last year after the couple were arrested.

The case against Humphrey and his wife has become a key piece in a long-running investigation into GSK, whose China executives have been charged with orchestrating a widespread network of bribery to promote sales.

The case against the couple, who have been accused of illegally obtaining private information, has been formally lodged with the Shanghai Number One Intermediate People’s Court for trial, the Xinhua report said.

Two family friends with knowledge of the matter said this month that the couple’s trial is set for August 7 and will be closed to the public. The secrecy surrounding the trial has raised concern from British and US officials. The foreign ministry said last week that the trial will be handled in accordance with the law.

ChinaWhys, the risk consultancy run by the couple, was employed by GSK in April last year to investigate an ex-employee suspected of sending anonymous e-mails, including the circulation of an intimate video of former GSK China head Mark Reilly with his girlfriend, as well as e-mails containing allegations of widespread bribery at the British drugmaker.

The Xinhua report said that Humphrey and Yu had paid people in Beijing and Shanghai to purchase personal information. Citing the prosecutor on the case, the report added that the couple had been fully aware of the illegality of their actions.

Between 2009 and last year the couple illegally obtained private information during investigations into close to a thousand firms and a large number of private individuals, including household registration data, real estate and vehicle documents, as well as phone records, it added.

GSK officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Humphrey previously worked for Reuters as a journalist in the 1980s and 90s.