The confession of a foreign couple jailed today for theft and resale of private information to companies including scandal-hit GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) China was detailed in a court statement, China Radio International's English Service reported.
Peter Humphrey of the UK and his American wife Yu Yingzeng were respectively awarded sentenced to prison terms of two-and-a-half years and two years respectively, plus fines.
The court statement said, the couple confessed to obtaining private information of Chinese citizens by illegal means including buying with cash, tracking and covert photography.
Based on the information they would write reports which included the targeted people's household registration, travel and call records, and resell them at a profit to various companies, mainly multinationals headquartered in 16 countries, including the US, Germany, the UK, France and Japan, the couple confessed in court.
According to the duo their company earned several million yuan each year.
Humphrey said, in April 2013, he was paid 10,000 yuan by Mark Reilly and Zhao Hongyan from GSK China's management as a down payment for investigating the identity of the person behind the formal allegations of bribery against the company.
In his investigation, which was conducted over a two-month period, he collected the private information of a number of people via illegal means. He confessed that he subsequently passed on the information to GSK China.
Humphrey, 58, and his wife Yu Yingzeng, 61, faced charges of obtaining background information from April 2009 to July 2013 through a consulting firm registered in Shanghai, ChinaDaily USA reported.
In addition to the jail term Humphrey was fined 200,000 yuan ($32,500), and faces deportation after serving the jail term. His wife was sentenced to two years and fined 150,000 yuan.
The hearing at Shanghai First Intermediate People's Court which started at 9:30 am ended at night time, with the proceedings broadcast on text and on the court's micro blog.
Confessing to the charges in court, the two defendants apologised, saying they regretted their actions.
According to Ruan Chuansheng, a Shanghai lawyer specialising in criminal cases, the Humphrey case had grabbed the attention it did due to the involvement of foreigners.
However, similar cases of violation of private information had been relatively common since the introduction of the charge in 2009.