GlaxoSmithKline’s nightmare in China deepened today as state media reported police claims that the Chinese business of Britain’s biggest drugmaker co-ordinated an alleged £321 million bribery scandal.
After Chinese police arrested four GSK workers last month over allegations the company funnelled up to three billion yuan in bribes to doctors and officials to boost medicine sales, the pharma giant had tried to blame the individuals, with chief executive Sir Andrew Witty saying: “It appears that certain senior executives in the China business have acted outside our processes and controls to defraud the company and the Chinese health care system.”
But the Xinhua news agency has reported that Chinese prosecutors said: “It is becoming clear that [the alleged bribery was] organised by GSK China rather than... sales people’s individual behaviour.”
Xinhua quoted Huang Hong, GSK’s general manager for business in China, as saying the firm had implemented salary policies based on sales goals that could not be achieved without “dubious corporate behaviour”. Guo Jianhua, head of recruitment at GSK China, was quoted by the People’s Daily as saying the firm had turned a blind eye to illegal behaviour.
A GSK spokesman said: “We remain deeply concerned by the allegations of fraudulent behaviour and ethical misconduct in our China business.”