Peter Humphrey, the British investigator hired by GlaxoSmithKline to investigate bribery allegations in China, was jailed for two-and-a-half years last night for breaching the country’s privacy laws.
His American wife, Yu Yingzeng was sentenced to two years in what were seen as harsh sentences considering their decision to plead guilty to buying background information on Chinese citizens. They have been held on remand in a Shanghai prison for the past 13 months.
The maximum jail term for the offence was three years.
The pair’s company, China Whys, had been hired by GSK to investigate an employee in China suspected of being the source of bribery allegations and a leaked sex tape of the company’s China chief Mark Reilly.
They admitted buying background information but said they did not realise it was illegal to do so.
Their son Harvey Humphrey had earlier said he hoped they would be released soon after their sentencing, saying he hoped the court would be lenient given their guilty plea and the relatively minor charge. He also said his father had hoped to stay in China for a while after serving his sentence before joining him in the UK. However, a court official last night said Humphrey would be deported.
Harvey Humphrey was excoriating in his criticism of GSK’s behaviour throughout his parents’ arrest and trial ordeal, saying: “The whole thing stems from GSK’s misleading of my parents I think in that process [my parents] trod on several powerful people’s toes.”
Humphrey was fined 200,000 yuan (£19,000), while Ms Yu was fined 150,000 yuan.
They have the right to appeal against their sentences within 10 days.
Harvey Humphrey declared GSK had not informed his father about the bribery allegations that had occurred before the sex tape emails that he was briefed to investigate.
The verdict did not make a link between Humphrey’s investigations and the allegations against the pharmaceutical giant GSK.
“The problem from where I am sitting is the way GSK behaved in this matter and they have not improved since this started… at the beginning [GSK] were saying they were not working with them – they were distancing themselves… There was room where we could have co-operated, to find out what had happened, but they did not extend any helping hand and have gone into full survival mode denying all connection with my parents,” he told Sky News.
He said his parents had looked in “mediocre” health and that his mother had been “very emotional” to see him for the first time in many weeks prior to the hearing.
His father said in a note from prison last year that he felt “cheated” by GSK, saying it had not shared with him the full details of the bribery allegations.
A GSK spokesman declined to comment.