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China fines British drugmaker GSK $489 mln, jails ex-China head

China has fined British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc 3 billion yuan ($488.8 million) for paying out bribes in what is a record penalty for China, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday.

A court in Changsha has also sentenced Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK in China, and other GSK executives to between two and four years in jail, Xinhua added.

The verdict, handed out behind closed doors in a single-day trial according to Xinhua, is the culmination of a Chinese probe into the British drug maker which Chinese authorities made public in July last year.

Chinese police said then that the firm had funnelled up to 3 billion yuan to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

GSK said in a statement on their website on Friday that the activities by the firm’s China unit were a “clear breach” of GSK’s governance and compliance procedures.

“Reaching a conclusion in the investigation of our Chinese business is important, but this has been a deeply disappointing matter for GSK. We have and will continue to learn from this,” GSK CEO, Andrew Witty, said in the statement.

The case is the biggest corruption scandal to hit a foreign company in China since the Rio Tinto affair in 2009, which resulted in four executives, including an Australian, being jailed for between seven and 14 years.

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