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GSK investigator jailed by Chinese police

Published on 08/08/14 at 04:52pm
GSK China

A private investigator hired by GlaxoSmithKline to look into the secret recording of a sex tape of its China boss has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

The Shanghai court also sentenced his American wife Yu Yingzeng, who worked with her husband on the case, to two years in prison, according to Chinese media. This is slightly shorter than the maximum three years they could have received.

The pair was found guilty of illegally obtaining Chinese citizens’ data and selling it to China-based multinational firms, including GSK China, according to the court’s ruling issued today.

According to a statement read out by a court official at a press conference, Humphrey will be deported, but it gave no further details on that aspect of the judgment, including on whether Yu would also be deported.

They are allowed to appeal against their sentences, the court in China said.

The wider context of this story is that GSK is also fighting separate allegations that it spent £320 million fund to offer cash, prostitutes and gifts to doctors in the country.

This all began last year when GSK was sent details of these allegations in January 2013 by an anonymous informant known only as ‘gskwhistleblower’ – which stated that the company used travel budgets to pay doctors up to £1,000 a month to encourage them to prescribe its drugs.

These emails were seen by 13 GSK executives, its auditing firm PwC and the company’s chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.

A second set of emails reiterating these allegations were sent again in May last year, but this time along with a secretly recorded sex tape of GSK’s former China boss Mark Reilly, who has since been arrested and charged with bribery allegations.

The video shows Reilly with his Chinese girlfriend in his Shanghai flat; he is currently separated from his wife. GSK has now admitted to the recording’s existence.

At the time when these emails were sent Reilly hired Humphrey — at a rate of £20,000 — to look into the security breach.

Humphrey’s report, code-named ‘Project Scorpion’, failed to establish who planted a camera in Reilly’s bedroom.

GSK had told Humphrey that he was simply looking at a ‘smear campaign’ into the firm, and neglected to tell him about the allegations by gskwhistleblower. It waited two months to tell him about the emails.

When he did finally see the emails from the whistle-blower, he said they were ‘totally credible’ and warned they would lead to an external investigation – a prediction that turned out to be true.

But in a further twist, Humphrey was then arrested in Shanghai after he began to investigate GSK's former government affairs lead Vivian Shi — who was suspected of being 'gskwhistleblower' — in relation to the email containing the video.

Shi, whose father was a high-ranking government official at Shanghai’s Health bureau, had been fired the previous December for allegedly falsifying her travel expenses.

But GSK suspected she was also to blame for 23 anonymous emails to various Chinese government offices alleging that bribery was rife in the company and endorsed by the senior management.

Humphrey and his wife were later arrested after their investigations for GSK. The court case, which was initially going to be held in secret, went ahead today.

Judge Yu Jian, of Shanghai’s No.1 Intermediate People's Court, said that ChinaWhys, the investigation company run by Humphrey and his wife, had purchased mobile phone records, customs information and household registration details over a four-year period until their detention in July 2013.

“The two defendants paid 800 yuan (£80) to 2000 yuan per piece of information,” according to an official microblog from the court. “In total, they bought 256 pieces of information,” he said.

Humphrey had already publically apologised for breaking Chinese laws in a broadcast shown by China’s state run CCTV last week, and a guilty verdict was widely expected.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph this week Harvey Humphrey, the couple’s 19-year-old son, told the paper: “When I saw my dad last Friday, I mentioned GSK once. I mentioned Reilly to him once. He expressed a very low opinion of Reilly.”

Ben Adams

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