GlaxoSmithKline staff 'confess' to China bribery charges
Employees at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have confessed to charges of bribery and tax law violations after questioning by Chinese police, said China's security ministry today.
In allegations grouped together as "serious economic crimes" by the ministry, GSK has been accused of offering bribes to government officials, medical associations, hospitals and doctors to boost drug sales and prices.
The British pharmaceuticals giant is also suspected of using fake receipts in breach of Chinese tax laws, according to the ministry.
"After initial questioning the suspects have admitted to the crimes, and the investigation is ongoing," the Ministry of Public Security said in the statement.
The statement said the investigation was being conducted by police in three of the country's biggest cities - Changsa, Shanghai and Zhengzhou - but did not give details on the number of executives questioned, their identities or when the questioning took place.
While none of the group under arrest is British, the Foreign Office has confirmed that at least one British National is receiving consular assistance in relation to the investigation.
GSK said it was "aware of the statement" and is "willing to cooperate with the authorities in this inquiry", but said today's statement is the "first official communication GSK has received from the PSB (China's Public Security Bureau) in relation to the specific nature of its investigation."
"We continuously monitor our businesses to ensure they meet our strict compliance procedures - we have done this in China and found no evidence of bribery or corruption of doctors or government officials. However, if evidence of such activity is provided we will of course act swiftly on it."
It is also unclear whether the alleged confessions are linked to allegations unveiled earlier this week that GSK staff handed doctors cash and other rewards for prescribing Botox treatment. GSK said on Monday it was conducting its own investigation into these charges, but had so far found no evidence of bribery or corruption.
In June police in Changsha told the official Xinhua news agency it had launched a probe into "senior managers" at Glaxo's China arm.
GSK is one of the biggest foreign pharmaceutical companies operating in China, although it forms a small part of group revenues. The company employs 5,000 in the country across six manufacturing sites and a research & development labs. Glaxo provides prescription medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare across the Chinese market.
The pharmaceutical giant employs more than 1,600 people in Ireland, across manufacturing sites in Cork, Dungarvan and Sligo, and its commercial offices in Dublin.