GSK corruption allegations now surface in UAE

Sir Andrew Witty

A day after Sanofi ($SNY) informed U.S. officials it was looking into reports of employees paying bribes in the Middle East, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) said it was doing the same in the United Arab Emirates.

For Glaxo CEO Sir Andrew Witty, it is just one of a growing list of places where he is having to face whistleblower reports that employees used various enticements to sell drugs. It has already acknowledged it is looking into reports in Syria, Jordan and Poland. It comes a month after the U.K. company agreed to pay a nearly $490 million fine in China for bribery and corruption following a drawn-out and very public probe there.

"As we have already said, we are undertaking an investigation into our operations in the Middle East following complaints made previously," GSK told Reuters. "This investigation continues and these specific claims were already being investigated as part of this process."

This time an email, read and reported by Reuters, was sent by someone claiming to be a sales manager for GSK in the UAE. It was sent to the top brass at the company Monday and listed some of the same kinds of accusations for which GSK got nailed in China, like payments for educational meetings, even if they didn't take place. It also alleges GSK gave customers extra over-the-counter drugs if they bought prescription drugs, the news service reported.

The charges are not unlike what Sanofi told officials they were looking into, paying bribes to doctors in the Middle East as well as in Kenya and other East African countries from 2007 to 2012 to persuade them to prescribe its drugs.

GSK just last month extracted itself from the limelight in China where for more than a year, a bribery scandal has played out. A Chinese court held a quick trial and meted out its justice. GSK agreed to pay a $489 million fine and its top exec there was given a three-year prison sentence, which the government then suspended.

As the reports mount, so does the grist for U.S. investigators, as well as those in the U.K., who have indicated they are looking into the reports to see if GSK ran afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

- read the Reuters story