Prosecutors in Shanghai have indicted two foreign investigators linked to drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which is at the centre of a bribery scandal in China, state media reported Monday.
British national Peter Humphrey and his wife Yu Yingzeng, a US citizen, are charged with illegally obtaining private information on Chinese citizens, the official news agency Xinhua reported, citing unnamed prosecutor sources.
The case is the first indictment by Chinese prosecutors against foreigners for illegal investigation, the report said.
In other cases, state media have cited legal experts saying the maximum penalty for illegally obtaining and trading personal information is three years in prison.
The two will be tried on August 7 in a closed session shut to relatives and diplomats, a family friend who asked not to be identified told AFP earlier this month.
Prosecutors told Xinhua that the couple illegally sold personal information including details of household registrations, property and car ownership, call logs and exit-entry records to multinational corporations in the country, including GSK China.
Information was either bought or obtained through means including secret photography or infiltration, according to Xinhua.
Humphrey, a veteran fraud investigator and former journalist for the news agency Reuters, founded Shanghai-based risk advisory firm ChinaWhys in 2004, while Yu worked as its general manager.
GSK hired Humphrey to investigate the origin of a sex tape of Mark Reilly, the former boss of its China division, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper has reported.
The recording emerged just before Beijing launched a bribery probe into the company.
Reilly was accused of ordering employees to bribe hospitals, doctors and health institutions to gain billions of dollars in revenue, Chinese authorities said in May after a 10-month investigation.
China's healthcare sector is widely considered to be riddled with graft, partly the result of an opaque tendering system for drugs and doctors' low salaries.
The government has since last year launched sweeping probes into alleged malpractice by foreign companies in several sectors, including the pharmaceutical and milk powder industries.