GlaxoSmithKline faces bribery claims in Syria

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The international pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is facing new claims it bribed Syrian distributors to increase sales in the country.

The claims come from the Reuters news agency, which has seen an anonymous email sent to top management setting out the charges.

It follows accusations of corruption in its non-prescription business in Syria, as well as bribery claims in China.

GSK said it would thoroughly investigate the claims.

The email, addressed to chief executive Andrew Witty and Judy Lewent, the chair of GSK's audit committee, says: "GSK has been engaging in multiple corrupt and illegal practices in conducting its pharmaceutical business in Syria."

The company has suspended relations with its distributors in the war-torn country while it investigates.

It is one of the few major pharmaceutical companies still supplying drugs there.

Investigations

The new claims follows a rash of similar bribery claims against GSK in China, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Poland.

"All the claims in this email will be thoroughly investigated using internal and external resources as part of our ongoing investigation into operations in Syria," said a spokesman for the company, which is the UK's biggest drugmaker.

"We are committed to taking any disciplinary actions resulting from the findings. We have suspended our relationship with our distributors in the country pending the outcome of our investigation."

The alleged sums involved are small, according to Reuters, running into thousands of dollars rather than the hundreds of millions GSK is alleged to have funnelled to doctors and officials in China.

The email gives names and dates of alleged illicit payments, including those of one Syrian doctor who personally received between $200 and $300 a month in free samples in exchange for ordering GSK drugs for his hospital and rejecting rival ones.

It also accuses the company of bribing officials at Syria's Ministry of Health to obtain vaccines for illegal resale.

The US Department of Justice is already investigating GSK for possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK's Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal criminal investigation into its overseas activities.

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