Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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GSK Fires More Than 100 Employees Over China Bribery Scandal

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(Photo : Reuters) A Chinese employee walks into a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) office in Beijing, July 19, 2013.

UK drug maker GlaxoSmithKline sacked more than a hundred of its employees in China - its biggest round of dismissals after getting embroiled in a bribery scandal.

The dismissals came six months after a Chinese court had found GlaxoSmithKline guilty of bribing doctors, hospitals and government officials and imposed a $490 million fine.

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GSK did not confirm the official number of employees fired, but sources said about 110 of the company's 7,000 employees in China were dismissed for misconduct.

"Based on the findings, we have taken disciplinary action against employees whose conduct contravened GSK's values and code of conduct. We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior," GSK officials said in a statement.

GSK officials added the company has increased the monitoring of its expense claims and hired external investigators to look into its operations in China.

Increased number of whistleblower reports against China staff was a big factor in the massive dismissals.  According to the company's annual report, the number of allegations jumped to 652 in 2014 from only 48 in 2013. 

GSK was found guilty of giving away billions of renminbi to hospitals, doctors and government officials in what authorities call a "massive and systemic bribery" to boost its sales and raise the price of its medicines.

While the court's September decision concluded China's criminal probe into the scandal, GSK could still face penalties from the UK Serious Fraud Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Both agencies are mandated to prosecute companies that face corruption charges overseas.

A spokesperson for the company had reiterated its commitment to China and vowed to implement reforms to guarantee that GSK operates to its highest standards.

"We continue to look to our business in China and expect to make further investments in the country as we evolve our business model there to best meet the needs of patients and customers in the country," a GSK spokeswoman said.

Apart from the multi-million dollar fine, the scandal also cost the job of the company's top five managers, including Mark Reilly, its former top China executive.

GSK suffered a severe blow to its reputation in China, at a time when the company is also struggling with declining respiratory-drug business in the U.S.

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