China sets trial date for GSK-tied investigators, says it will be 'open'

Peter Humphrey

It's official: China has set the date for the trial of two private investigators tied to GlaxoSmithKline's operations there. The pair will head to court in just over a week on charges of illegally purchasing personal information about Chinese nationals, a Chinese court said. And according to state news agency Xinhua, all are welcome to attend.

U.K. national Peter Humphrey and Yu Yingzeng, Humphrey's wife and a U.S. citizen, will stand trial on Aug. 8, the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court announced Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal. Contrary to previous reports, Xinhua now says it will be open to the public. The pair has been in the custody of Chinese authorities since last August.

Since then, information has slowly emerged concerning the couple's relationship to Glaxo, which came under fire last summer for allegedly funneling $489 million in bribes to Chinese doctors and other healthcare professionals. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the pharma giant had hired Humphrey's firm, ChinaWhys, to investigate a former employee accused of making a sex tape of top China exec Mark Reilly without his knowledge--and circulating it via email to other Glaxo higher-ups, including CEO Andrew Witty.

Now, Chinese prosecutors say Humphrey and Yingzeng "illegally trafficked a huge amount of personal information on Chinese citizens to seek profits," state news agency Xinhua reported earlier this month. Among the information: home registrations, background on family members and call logs, some of which they allegedly purchased illegally. And they're accused of tailing people and secretly photographing them, too.

But the trial itself has stirred up its own controversy, with Reuters recently reporting that China had barred all outsiders--including the couple's teenage son--from attending. Officials from both the U.S. and the U.K. have since stepped in to demand more transparency, with a U.S. embassy spokesman recently citing a 1982 agreement under which consular officials should be granted access.

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