China releases jailed British investigator Peter Humphrey linked to GSK

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Chinese authorities on Tuesday granted early release to a jailed British investigator who was linked to a corruption case involving pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), his son and a family friend told AFP.

In August last year a Shanghai court sentenced Peter Humphrey to two-and-a-half years in prison for illegally obtaining the personal information of Chinese citizens.

His American wife and partner in the couple's investigative firm, ChinaWhys, received a two-year jail term.

Humphrey and wife Yu Yingzeng were hired by GSK to investigate the source of a lurid sex tape of the company's China boss, shortly before the British multinational became embroiled in bribery allegations.

"He (Humphrey) was notified today that the court decided to reduce his sentence by seven months," the friend said, adding he was originally due for release in January 2016 since the court counted the time he was held before the trial.

"The British consulate is preparing an emergency passport and then he will be deported," she said.

A spokesman for the British consulate in Shanghai confirmed that a British national had been released, and said it was providing assistance.

Humphrey was currently in hospital, where he had been for several weeks undergoing medical tests for a potentially serious form of cancer, the friend said.

She said the family was uncertain if his wife, who is due for release in July, would also have her sentence reduced.

"I am stunned and delighted and I hope to see both my parents as soon as possible," said their son Harvey Humphrey.

"My father may need treatment for his health but he will soon be able to speak for himself," he said in a statement provided to AFP.

Last September a Chinese court fined GSK 3 billion yuan (S$650 million) following a nearly year-long bribery probe.

Four former GSK executives were given suspended sentences of between two and four years in prison.

The company "resorted to bribery to boost sales of its medical products and sought benefits in an unfair manner", the court said in a statement, according to the official Xinhua news agency.