A covert sex tape involving a senior executive and his Chinese lover was the trigger for a major investigation into corruption at British drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline, it was revealed yesterday.
The video of married Mark Reilly and his girlfriend was filmed by secret camera and emailed anonymously to board members of the pharmaceutical firm.
It led to an investigation that has rocked the £76billion company – which stands accused of bribing doctors and other health officials in China with £320million of gifts, including sexual favours from prostitutes, to persuade them to prescribe its drugs.
Mr Reilly, who ran the company’s Chinese business, was charged six weeks ago with running a ‘massive bribery network’ involving £90million of illegal sales and banned from leaving the country.
It was the culmination of a year-long corruption investigation into the FTSE 100 firm.
But yesterday, it was revealed the scandal first erupted after the sex tape was emailed by ‘GSK whistleblower’ to board members, including chief executive Andrew Witty, in March 2013, in what was believed to be a threat or blackmail attempt.
The footage showed father-of-two Mr Reilly, who is separated from his wife, having sex with his Chinese girlfriend.
He was given permission to hire investigator Peter Humphrey, 58, to find out who had hidden the camera in his Shanghai flat and who had sent two separate emails making serious fraud allegations.
The £20,000 probe, codenamed Project Scorpion, focused on disgruntled former employee Vivien Shi, 49, a prominent businesswoman whose family is part of Shanghai’s communist elite.
But a few months after starting to investigate Miss Shi, Mr Humphrey was arrested along with his wife Yu Yingzeng, a US citizen and daughter of one of China’s most eminent atomic weapons scientists.
According to the Sunday Times, Mr Humphrey’s arrest and detention in July was at around the same time that China began a police probe into GSK’s alleged bribery.
Mr Reilly, 52, of Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, stepped down from his post as China manager soon after Mr Humphrey’s arrest but remains a GSK employee.
He returned to Britain around the same time but voluntarily went back to China within days to assist police with their inquiries.
He was charged in May this year and accused by police of presiding over a web of corruption and pressing his sales teams to bribe health officials to meet targets.
If found guilty, Mr Reilly, who has a PhD in pharmacology and neurosciences from University College London, could face life in prison.
Mr Reilly joined GSK in 1989 and has worked in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. He is separated from Jill, 49, with whom he has two teenage daughters, and has moved out of their £1.2million home.
Email: The footage was apparently sent to executives including chief executive Andrew Witty
It is understood he met Mrs Reilly at university, where she was studying psychology. Like her husband, she took up a post at GSK, working as a director of capital planning.
Yesterday, a neighbour said he did not know Mr and Mrs Riley had split and said he had not seen either for months.
The first email from ‘GSK whistleblower’ was sent in January last year. In March, the sex tape was sent from the same account, followed by a third email in May.
The emails laid out a series of sales and marketing practices described as ‘pervasive corruption’.
GSK launched an internal investigation but found ‘no specific evidence’ to substantiate the claims.
However, the accusations are virtually identical to the charges laid by police against Mr Reilly and 45 other suspects.
Last month, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office announced it is to investigate the company’s ‘commercial practices’.
Yesterday, GSK confirmed the sex tape’s existence and added in a statement: ‘The issues relating to our China business are very difficult and complicated.
The investigation by the Chinese authorities remains ongoing and we are co-operating fully with this investigation.’
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