Chinese authorities formally indicted two corporate investigators, an American and Briton, for allegedly illegally obtaining and selling private information, state media reported Monday.
Prosecutors in Shanghai filed charges against British investigator Peter Humphrey and his wife Yingzeng Yu, a U.S. citizen, at the city’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The move paves the way for the couple to stand trial.
The official Xinhua News Agency said it is the first time foreigners have faced such charges in China. Humphrey and Yu are part of an industry of investigators who help corporate clients screen potential partners and employees or watch for embezzlement and other employee misconduct.
The couple’s arrest last year coincided with a Chinese investigation of accusations British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline paid bribes to doctors and officials to use its medications.
Glaxo said it hired Yu and Humphrey last year to investigate a security breach involving a top manager.
According to Xinhua, the couple are accused of illegally selling a “huge amount” of personal information on Chinese citizens, including home addresses, information about family members, details about real estate and vehicles and records of travelers entering and leaving the country.
The investigators are accused of obtaining such information by illegally buying it from others as well as with hidden cameras or by following people, Xinhua said.
Yu and Humphrey would compile the information gathered on the subjects of their investigations and sell the reports to clients that were mainly multinational companies based in China such as GSK China, the report said.