China security ministry says GSK executives confess to economic crimes

Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:39am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Executives of GlaxoSmithKline Plc in China have confessed to charges of bribery and tax law violations, the country's security ministry said, in one of the most prominent graft cases involving a foreign company in three years.

Bribes were offered to Chinese government officials, medical associations, hospitals and doctors to boost sales and prices, the ministry said in a statement on its website on Thursday. GSK executives also used fake receipts in unspecified tax law violations, it added.

The statement did not give details on the number of GSK executives questioned, their identities or when the questioning took place. In response to the ministry's charges, GSK said it is willing to cooperate with the authorities.

China in recent months has targeted foreign firms on multiple fronts including alleged price-fixing, quality controls and consumer rights, forcing companies to defend their reputations in a country where international brands often have a valuable edge over local competitors in terms of public trust.

The charges of bribery make the GSK case the highest profile probe in China since four executives of mining giant Rio Tinto Plc were jailed in March 2010 for taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

The four - one a China-born Australian citizen and three Chinese nationals - received jail terms of between seven and 14 years after being found guilty of getting information from confidential strategy meetings of the body representing China's steel industry in negotiations with iron ore suppliers.

Under China's legal system, the GSK executives will be formally charged after the completion of the preliminary investigations.

"We take all allegations of bribery and corruption seriously," GSK said in its statement.

"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."   Continued...

A man walks in front of a GlaxoSmithKline factory at Pudong district in Shanghai July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria