A good translation of a recent interview and article about Peter Humphrey.
Peter became embroiled in GSK’s China bribery scandal when he was hired by GSK to investigate a GSK employee.
In my opinion, Peter, and his wife, were wrongly jailed and I think the Chinese needed to jail someone. I think that they were scapegoated.
It’s quite obvious to me, why Mark Reilly (head of UK China Bribe operations) was not jailed, and why he merely deported back to the UK with a suspended sentence.
Money talks.. and bullshit walks…
Wirtschaftswoche article 2015-09-11 German
(original German article above, and English translation below)
“The man who researched too well”
China: for years, during his work for international companies, Peter Humphrey uncovered corruption
and embezzlement. Then he found the wrong people in his sights ‐ and changed from the hunter to
In early 2013 Mark Reilly, China head of the British pharmaceuticals co. GSK, received a few
unpleasant e‐mails. The senders threatened him with releasing documents about the company’s
bribery practices. The senders also stated that they had a video of private misdemeanours. Many
people suspect that a former Glaxo female employee was behind the e‐mails – up to Dec 2012 she
was responsible for “government relations”. With the threat of releasing the documents, she is said
to have demanded a large sum of money from Reilly. Reilly sees himself as the victim of a smear
campaign. He turns to detective and investigator Peter Humphrey. Humphrey and his wife, via their
firm ChinaWhys, have specialised for years in uncovering corruption and embezzlement in China.
They count well‐known international firms, including many Germans, amongst their customers. He is
commissioned to find damaging material about the (female) blackmailer.
From this point on, the story could have taken an expected course: Humphrey would have been on
the blackmailer’s trail, would have taken the manager out of the firing line, and collected his fee. The
blackmailer would have been charged; perhaps all those involved would have agreed to stay silent.
Instead, though, Humphrey himself was arrested a short time later, charged, and locked up for two
years in a Shanghai prison. He was only released on 17 June this year – here he tells his story.
Mr Humphrey, you’ve just been let out of prison and are living in a house in southern England. Why
on earth were you locked up by the Chinese authorities?
At the moment I can’t mention the names of any persons or companies. But: A large European
company commissioned us to investigate a smear campaign. The China boss of the company was
blackmailed. Someone demanded a lot of money, otherwise he would expose the company’s corrupt
practices. The company’s board wished to know who lay behind the blackmail.
What happened then?
We were able to find out that the blackmailer himself/herself had a skeleton in the cupboard. We
wrote a report and gave it to the company’s China boss.
Although the case has already been made public, Humphrey doesn’t mention the name
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) at all, possibly so as not to endanger a later out‐of‐court settlement with the
In summer 2013, shortly after he and his wife had handed over their report, Chinese authorities
searched the premises of ChinaWhys. Over the years the company had encouraged Chinese doctors
and hospitals to prescribe GSK drugs by giving them cash and gifts. The amounts involved came to
hundreds of millions. In Sept 2014 was sentenced to a fine of 3,000 mill. RMB, around 430 mill. EUR.
China boss Mark Reilly was sentenced to three years on probation. But instead of then closing the
case and taking the investigator to one side to thank him, Shanghai’s authorities brought a charge
against Humphrey’s firm ChinaWhys. The charge: illegal trading of data.
Mr Humphrey, are the charges accurate?
Now and again we commissioned agencies to find certain data for us. This was so we could help
convict people suspected of embezzlement or corruption. We couldn’t control how these agencies
obtained the data. However, there were other reasons to arrest us.
The blackmailer had very good contacts within the Shanghai police and judiciary. Had our report been
publicised, the blackmail threat would have been lost. Therefore the contacts were used. The
authorities examined the company and a huge bribery scandal came to light. The company
announced that it was prepared to pay an enormous fine.
Humphrey’s supposed offence sounds absurd: the law that the authorities are keen to use forbids
the trading of addresses to send spam e‐mails.
“The woman, who wanted to blackmail Reilly, was the daughter of a powerful politician. That
probably started the whole thing rolling,” said Stuart Lindley, who works as a tax adviser in Peking.
President Xi Jinping has announced over and over again that he wishes to promote the rule of law.
Since then, the number of proceedings against corruption has increased sharply. In some regions the
whole Party leadership has had to go, and many companies have paid large fines. But corrupt
networks that are still intact are defending themselves with equally harsh methods. Above all the
business metropolis Shanghai has gained the reputation that, there, personal relationships stand
above the law.
How far above the law, became clear to Humphrey and his wife on 10 July 2013 at the latest, when
the security forces were searching their premises.
What happened after?
We were interrogated until 2.00am in the cellar of the infamous police HQ 803. Afterwards they took
us to a clinic in Pudong district. At 4.00am we were split up. I couldn’t speak to my wife again for
almost another two years.
What about the conditions in the prison?
I was put in a 5m x 3m cell. Two walls were made of wooden fence poles. Therefore the room was
completely see‐through. In the corner were a washbasin, and a hole that served as the toilet. 12
people slept in the cell on pink‐coloured mats. It was very hot. I was the only foreigner. The light was
on – it was never switched off in these 14 months.
How did the next few days go?
They mainly concerned interrogation. They took place every day for about two hours. I was put in a
room, in which there was a steel cage. I was fastened to a chair with handcuffs and interrogated. A
TV was on the whole day – mostly showing anti‐Japanese propaganda.
Were you beaten?
No, but my health deteriorated. I had back trouble and prostate problems, which I still have today.
Humphrey had a good reputation in China. Above all, he was very well connected in western business
circles. A German lawyer says: “I believe they looked for a reason to arrest him.” The opportunity
arose when he started to work for GSK. “He has always helped companies to uncover fraud cases.
Here he was supposed to help a company that itself was doing the bribing in a big way, “ says his ex‐
partner Lindley. So, with his investigation, Humphrey was caught in the crossfire: what he had
discovered could not please either the local Party or his client.
Mr Humphrey, how did you pass the time?
As from Jan 2014 my wife and I were allowed to write each other letters. They were read and checked
by at least three censors, and sometimes it took a month for them to be delivered, although we were
only 20 metres apart. But these letters were a great source of moral support for me. Without them, I
don’t know if I could have got through this period. Apart from that, I read about 140 books.
Everything possible, classics: “War & Peace” by Tolstoy, “Crime & Punishment” by Dostoyevsky, seven
volumes of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, all of Haruki Murakami’s books. A Rotary friend
of mine organised the books for me. He wanted to give me the last one, when I had my freedom back.
I’m afraid, though, that I have no more time for reading. Apart from the books mentioned,
biographies by other people who had been imprisoned were very important for me: by Ingrid
Betancourt, who was taken hostage by Columbian rebels, and by Nelson Mandela. These books
showed me the strength of the human spirit, and they became a sort of moral standard for me.
What happened on the last day of your imprisonment?
It wasn’t really like that. It was more of a process. At the end of April, they told me that I had a
tumour. From then on, the pressure on the prison governors kept increasing. Finally I was put into a
special wing and on 9 June in a Shanghai hotel I saw my wife again.
We were there for eight days under house arrest. Then we left the country. They demanded, though,
that I should sign a statement, whereby I agreed not to talk either with the media, lawyers or with
politicians about my case. They urged us three times not to report to the authorities in Peking what
had happened to us.
Did you sign?
No. But my wife did. I went to them and told them that this was a forced signature and therefore not
binding. I want justice.
Humphrey and his wife left the country straight after. In summer 2014, GSK asked the Chinese
people for forgiveness, but about Humphrey they only said: “GSK commissioned ChinaWhys to find
out what lay behind the violation of the private life of company’s China boss. ChinaWhys was not
commissioned to investigate the accusations of the whistle‐blower.”
Do you want to sue the company?
That’s one of several options. But legal methods are not the only way. I wish to appeal to the social
conscience of this company. We want compensation.
You lived in China for over 20 years and studied Sinology. You know the country. What has changed
Above all, the climate in Shanghai is something different. The city is the most corrupt in the whole of
China. Relationships are similar to those in the 1920’s: the police act in the interests of the rich and
powerful, judges work for clients. We knew before our imprisonment that something had changed.
But we were surprised at how much the situation there has got out of control. The central
government in Peking hardly has control any more over this city.
Will your case have long‐term consequences?
This case has shown that careful investigations of company practices and of fraud cases are not
wanted. But they are essential for a functioning market economy. Police and judiciary do not operate
independently, but under instruction from the rich and powerful. Nobody is safe in Shanghai – no
person, no company.
“Peter, as a first offender i.e. without previous convictions, and as someone who has done a great
deal for the certainty of the law in China, received a heavy punishment – that has unsettled many in
the international business community”, said the German lawyer, himself so unsettled that he didn’t
want to reveal his name. It’s still not clear to this day, whose interests Humphrey’s imprisonment
actually served. The suspected (female) blackmailer, at least, has been working again for GSK since
August this year. Business goes on.