The son of a British investigator on trial in China has blamed British drugs company GlaxoSmithKline for misleading his parents.
GlaxoSmithKline has confirmed that the Serious Fraud Office has begun a formal criminal investigation into the group’s commercial practices.
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British corporate investigator Peter Humphrey has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for illegally obtaining records on Chinese citizens, while his American wife was handed a two-year jail sentence, at a court in Shanghai.
The couple ran risk consultancy ChinaWhys, whose clients included British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc, which is at the centre of a separate corruption probe.
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.
The couple has the right to appeal their sentence within 10 days, the court added.
The trial of a British man and his American wife, who are accused of illegally obtaining and selling private information on Chinese nationals, could be key to a bribery investigation against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
Peter Humphrey and Yu Yingzeng ran a risk consultancy called ChinaWhys, whose clients included GSK, and their testimony is being closely watched for any comments on the British firm.
The couple's arrest last year coincided with a government investigation into the company who are accused of funneling millions of pounds through travel agencies to bribe local doctors and health officials to raise prices and boost sales.
However, GSK was not mentioned on the charge sheet against Humphrey and Yu.
Prosecutors claim the couple have obtained over 200 items of private information including phone records and real estate documents and then re-sold the data.
A British man and his wife went on trial in Shanghai today for illegally obtaining and selling private information about Chinese nationals.
The arrest of Peter William Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu last year coincided with a Chinese bribery investigation into pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
The couple were investigators who operated a small firm in China that helped corporate clients screen potential partners and employees and watch for embezzlement.
Glaxo said it hired Yu and Humphrey to investigate a security breach but prosecutors have not said whether the two cases are linked.
The Serious Fraud Office has confirmed it has opened a criminal investigation into the commercial practices of GSK and its subsidiaries.
It appealed for whistelblowers from the company to help them with their inquiries.
Whistleblowers are valuable sources of information to the SFO in its cases.
We welcome approaches from anyone with inside information on all our cases including this one - we can be contacted through our secure and confidential reporting channel, which can be accessed via the SFO website.
The scandal is the latest in a number of corruption probes in Iraq, Poland and China against the company.
Anyone with any information can contact the Serious Fraud Office confidentially through their website.
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline said it intends to co-operate fully with the criminal investigation into its operations by the Serious Fraud Office. In a statement, the company said:
GSK is committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards and will continue to co-operate fully with the SFO.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is under criminal investigation here in the UK, the company said.
The London-based multinational corporation said the Serious Fraud Office has opened a "formal criminal investigation".
The company is facing similar investigations in Iraq and China.
The UK-based drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline is facing fresh allegations of corruption after Chinese police accused senior executive Mark Reilly of bribery.
In a statement by the official Xinhua News Agency, police said GSK's Mark Reilly is accused of pressing sales teams to bribe doctors, hospital officials and health institutions.
It said that resulted in "illegal revenue" of billions of yuan - hundreds of millions of dollars.
British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline is investigating allegations of corruption in Iraq, after claims emerged that it hired 16 state-employed doctors and pharmacists as sales representatives while they worked for the government.
The new allegations of corruption come just months after a major scandal in China, when 18 employees were detained on bribery charges.
Details of the new allegations were sent to the company earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a statement, GlaxoSmithKline said:
"We are investigating allegations of improper conduct in our Iraq business. We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behaviour.
"In total, we employ fewer than 60 people in Iraq in our pharmaceuticals operation and these allegations relate to a small number of individuals in the country."