Thu, Jun 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

UK investigator freed from Chinese prison

NY Times News Service, SHANGHAI

Peter Humphrey, a British private investigator who was detained two years ago while working for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, was released from prison on Tuesday with seven months to go of a two-and-a-half-year sentence, according to friends and family members.

The Shanghai authorities released Humphrey, 59, early Tuesday morning and admitted him to a hospital because of poor health, his family said. Once tests are conducted, he is expected to be issued an emergency passport and deported to Britain by the Chinese authorities.

Humphrey’s arrest in the summer of 2013 coincided with a Chinese government investigation into accusations of fraud and corruption at the drug company. Although Humphrey was not charged in connection with that case, his friends and relatives believed he was detained because of work he had been conducting for Glaxo.

In a separate case, Glaxo was eventually fined nearly US$500 million, one of the largest fines in corporate history in China, for engaging in fraud and bribery. One of the company’s top executives in the country, Mark Reilly, was also charged with wrongdoing in the case. The authorities then suspended Reilly’s three-year prison sentence and ordered him deported.

Humphrey and his wife and business partner, Yu Yingzeng (虞英曾), a Chinese-born US citizen, were charged with violating the rights of private citizens by obtaining private information about them while operating ChinaWhys. The company, an investigation firm, regularly performed due diligence for multinational corporations in China.

Yu, 61, was sentenced last year to two years in prison and she is expected to be released within a month. There was no indication on Tuesday that her sentence had been reduced. The sentences for her and her husband took into account time served since their arrests.

A representative at the British consulate could not be reached late on Tuesday. However, British officials issued a two-sentence statement, without naming Humphrey: “We have been notified by the Chinese authorities that a British national detained in China has been released. We are providing consular assistance to the family.”

In a statement released by the Humphrey family, the couple’s son, Harvey, said: “I’m stunned and delighted. I hope to see both of my parents as soon as possible.”

The Humphrey case shocked the international community in China because ChinaWhys had worked for some of the world’s biggest companies and had typically been hired to help root out corruption. However, the case highlighted the risks of doing such work in China and it suggested that investigative firms were sometimes paying to obtain access to confidential government records.

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