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GSK-linked investigator does not dispute China charges

A British investigator once hired by scandal-hit pharmaceutical giant GSK in China did not dispute accusations that he had breached privacy laws as he went on trial Friday (Aug 8), the court said.

SHANGHAI: A British investigator once hired by scandal-hit pharmaceutical giant GSK in China did not dispute accusations that he had breached privacy laws as he went on trial Friday (Aug 8), the court said.

Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng were hired to investigate the source of a lurid sex tape of the China boss of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), shortly before the British firm became embroiled in bribery allegations. They are accused of illegally obtaining more than 200 items of information on Chinese individuals, and reselling it.

"Generally speaking... I don't dispute (the prosecutor's indictment)," Peter Humphrey told the Number One People's Intermediate Court in Shanghai, the court said on a verified microblog account. It posted a picture of Humphrey facing a judge wearing a dark suit while Yu wore a smart red jacket, each of them with an arm gripped by a uniformed official. At least one translator and three defence lawyers were present, the court added.

The case has raised concerns amongst foreign investors in China, who often hire independent investigators to conduct due-diligence investigations into Chinese companies. State media have cited legal experts saying the maximum penalty for illegally obtaining and trading personal information is three years in prison.

Chinese authorities are investigating several foreign pharmaceutical firms over pricing and other issues. GSK has been accused of systemic corruption, and police in May announced the arrest of its former China boss Mark Reilly on charges that he ordered employees to commit bribery. China's healthcare sector is widely considered to be riddled with graft, partly the result of an opaque tendering system for drugs and doctors' low salaries.

Humphrey, a former journalist and longtime China resident who founded an investigative firm, ChinaWhys, was reportedly hired by GSK to look into the origin of a covertly filmed video of Reilly and a girlfriend. Humphrey was detained alongside his wife, who worked as ChinaWhys' general manager. The couple's connection with GSK was not mentioned by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) when it paraded the duo in prison suits and aired a televised "confession" by an unshaven Humphrey.