Two Private Investigators Accuse GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of Hiring Them Under False Pretenses
11/17/2016 6:05:54 AM
November 17, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
PHILADELPHIA – Two private investigators have filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), claiming the pharma giant hired them to investigate an alleged whistleblower in China under false pretenses—an alleged whistleblower who turned out to be innocent. That investigation lead to their own imprisonment in a Chinese prison.
Peter Humphrey and his wife, Yu Yingzeng, who ran the investigative agency ChinaWhys, allege in court documents filed at the United States District Court in Philadelphia, that GSK lied about the reasons for hiring the duo in 2013, StatNews reported. According to reports, GSK hired the couple to investigate Vivian Shi, a former employee who headed government affairs in China for GSK. Corporate officials believed Shi would become a whistleblower and disclose a widespread bribery scheme, according to reports. Citing court documents, StatNews said the plaintiffs claim GSK was trying to discredit Shi and cover up the alleged scheme. That investigation actually led to Humphrey and his wife being charged with illegally obtaining private records of a Chinese citizen by the Chinese government, the New York Times said. The couple was charged in 2013 and found guilty by a Chinese court in 2014, the Times said. They were imprisoned for two years. Humphrey was released on the basis of health issues after serving about two-and-a-half years in prison.
The couple allege that the GSK officials in China were aware of the whistleblower allegations, investigated them and found nothing. Humphrey and his wife specialize in investigating bribery charges. They offered, according to StatNews, to look into the allegations, but instead, GSK executives “expressed concern that Shi was trying to extort and smear the company, and they sought details about her activities.” The couple also claim that GSK officials asked them to investigate Chinese government officials, something they said they refused. It was later determined that Shi was not the whistleblower, StatNews said. The whistleblower has yet to be identified. Shi had left the company in 2012 before the investigation began and was later rehired by GSK in 2015.
Things began to heat up for GSK when Chinese officials began investigating GSK for its own bribery scheme—a scheme that ultimately resorted in GlaxoSmithKline being fined nearly $500 million when it was revealed that some employees of the pharmaceutical company were bribing doctors with extravagant gifts to prescribe Glaxo medications to their patients. Additionally, the company was also accused of violating China’s personal privacy laws through illegal videotaping.
A GSK spokesperson told the Times the company believes the lawsuit is without merit. The spokesperson said GSK will vigorously defend against the allegations.
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