Peter Humphrey, the private investigator hired by GlaxoSmithKline to try and reveal the identity of an internal whistleblower, has been released from a Chinese prison after serving close to two years.
Shanghai officials have apparently released Humphrey seven months early due to his battle with cancer.
Back in August 2014 Humphrey was sentenced to two years and six months in jail on charges of "illegally obtaining private information", a fine of 25,000 yuan, and deportation from China. His wife was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "illegally obtaining private information", and a fine of 15,000 yuan. Prior to this they had been held in Shanghai’s Pudong District Detention House on remand for 13 months.
GSK called upon the services of Humphrey after receiving a series of emails from a whistleblower. At least 23 anonymous emails were sent to government agencies around the country and to GSK’s top management, including Andrew Witty, alleging that bribery was rife in GSK China sales and that the practice was endorsed by senior GSK management.
GSK, being GSK, decided to hire Humphrey to try and find out who was blowing the whistle, the accusations made in the emails, it seemed, was not really concerning for them.
Vivian Shi, who at the time, was the company’s former head of government affairs in the country and the person GSK suspected was trying to damage the company, was investigated by Peter Humphrey and his wife, Yu Yingzeng.
However, Humphrey found nothing that pointed toward Shi as being the whistleblower.
In his report, Mr Humphrey warned the company that, by focusing on Ms Shi, it might not be seeing the wood for the trees. In other words, they should focus on the accusations and not the accuser.
“GSK should be wary of possible operational loopholes that make it vulnerable,” he concluded in the confidential report submitted to his client, adding that such loopholes included “wrongdoings committed by employees or business partners”. [Source 双语新闻Bilingual News]
During his initial investigation, Humphrey also became aware of a sex-tape that was sent in to GSK's senior managers that showed head of GSK's China operations. Mark Reilly, apparently romping with his Chinese girlfriend.
News of the alleged corruption soon fell into the hands of Chinese authorities and after investigating the claims GSK were handed down a fine of £297m, the biggest in Chinese corporate history. Reilly was given a three year suspended sentence for his part in the bribery and deported from China. He was convicted of bribing non-government officials under article 164 of Chinese law.
Humphrey, at the time of his sentence, felt hard done by, I'm sure he still does.
Here we have GSK employees paying as much as £300m in bribes to doctors to increase sales and their mastermind behind this illegal activity (believed to be Reilly) gets a slap on the wrist and is deported from China.
Humphrey's crime, although illegal, was nothing on the scale of GSK's. He and his wife paid Chinese sources to obtain 256 items of private information including identity records, travel records and mobile phone numbers between April, 2009 and July, 2013.
Humprey's son, Harvey, spoke out regarding the harshness of his father's sentence.
“The problem from where I am sitting is the way GSK behaved in this matter and they have not improved since this started… at the beginning [GSK] were saying they were not working with them – they were distancing themselves… There was room where we could have co-operated, to find out what had happened, but they did not extend any helping hand and have gone into full survival mode denying all connection with my parents,”
Speaking from prison last year Peter Humphrey said that he felt “cheated” by GSK, saying it had not shared with him the full details of the bribery allegations.
It remains to be seen now if Peter Humphrey and his wife speak out about those allegations and how Glaxo, seemingly, turned a blind eye to them.
I wish Mr Humphrey a speedy recovery. I've no doubt that his current illness would have been exasperated by the ordeal and I hope that he can pull through.
His wife is due for release on July 11.
Peter Humprey's wife, Yu Yingzeng, has now been released. (Wall Street Journal)
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