GSK Investigates New Syria Bribery Allegations
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) says it is investigating new bribery allegations raised by an apparent whistleblower concerning its operations in war-torn Syria.
The pharmaceutical firm, which was already facing accusations of corruption in its consumer business in the country, spoke out after the news agency Reuters published details of an anonymous internal email containing allegations that Syrian doctors were bribed to help boost medicine sales.
The claims in the email - sent last week to top managers including chief executive Sir Andrew Witty - related to the activities of GSK staff and local distributors and is understood to have contained names.
The FTSE 100 company told Sky News: "We have zero tolerance for any kind of unethical behaviour and we welcome people speaking up if they have concerns about alleged misconduct.
"On 6 August 2014, we received an email making claims regarding GSK's pharmaceutical operations and related distributors in Syria.
"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.
"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.
"We remain committed to the secure, humanitarian supply of safe and effective medicines and vaccines to patients in need."
GSK's ethical standards have been called into question amid a series of corruption claims covering China, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Poland.
The most high-profile allegations relate to its operations in China where GSK is alleged to have funnelled hundreds of millions of pounds to doctors and officials.
A new twist emerged in June when GSK confirmed its former top boss in China, Mark Reilly, had been filmed in a covert sex tape prior to the bribery investigation being launched by Chinese officials.
Four China staff members were arrested in July as part of the wider corruption probe while a British man, Peter Humphrey, who had carried out an investigation for GSK in China was jailed last week for breaking privacy laws.
Reuters said the new corruption claims in Syria involved alleged bribes paid to boost sales of various medicines, including ones to treat cancer and to prevent blood clots.
It reported they took the form of cash, trips and free medical samples running into thousands of pounds.
While GSK suspended its consumer business in Syria two years ago because of the country's civil war, it has recorded annual sales of almost £6m.