A BRITISH investigator who is on trial with his American wife on charges of illegally trading in personal details of Chinese nationals testified yesterday that he bought such information from other consulting companies.

Peter Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu helped companies screen potential business partners or employees and watch for fraud. Their arrest last August sent a chill through China's foreign business community. It came as Beijing tightened controls over information and prompted warnings that investigation of legitimate matters might be curtailed.

Humphrey said he purchased information from three Chinese investigators who obtained it from law firms and other sources, according to a trial transcript released by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate Court.

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The former Reuters journalist denied a Chinese claim that he was spying.

Humphrey and Yu worked under contract for British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which is accused in a separate case of bribing Chinese doctors and hospitals to use its products.