Aug 28, 2013

    China nabs duo for violating privacy

    CHINESE state television put two foreign fraud investigators on display yesterday as police announced that they had been charged with illegally obtaining personal information as part of their business of advising foreign companies on investment risks and fraud in China.

    Police in Shanghai arrested British national Peter Humphrey and his wife, Yu Yingzeng, an American citizen, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

    They are accused of obtaining personal information and selling reports for "high prices" to clients, it added.

    Earlier, an acquaintance of Humphrey, who asked not to be identified by name, said Humphrey appeared to have been arrested in connection with his work for GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical group beset by allegations of using bribery to expand its sales in China.

    A Xinhua report did not mention GlaxoSmithKline or any other company.

    In a report which appeared to be coordinated with the police announcement, China Central Television showed Humphrey walking in handcuffs and wearing the orange vest of a Shanghai detention centre. Yu was also shown, though both of their faces were deliberately blurred.

    "I deeply regret this matter and I apologise to the Chinese government," Humphrey said in the report.

    Yu told state radio that their clients were multinational companies, including manufacturers, financial institutions and law firms. No names were given.

    The allegations against the couple are likely to send a chill through the fraud- and commercial-investigation firms in China that help foreign investors navigate the country's capricious commercial environment.

    Humphrey, a veteran fraud investigator and a former journalist with Reuters news agency, is the founder of Shanghai-based risk advisory firm ChinaWhys, while Yu worked as its general manager.

    Police said the firm collected, bought or used other methods to obtain information about Chinese citizens, including addresses, family members, travel, property and car ownership.

    Of more than 500 investigative reports, "more than 10" had been found to violate the privacy of Chinese citizens, the statement said.

    Police said the firm paid 800 yuan (S$168) to 2,000 yuan for each piece of information, China National Radio reported.

    AFP, NYT