Shanghai official linked to GSK bribery sentenced to 19 years in prison

The GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) officials accused of orchestrating its $489 million Chinese bribery scandal may have dodged prison sentences in the country, but a Shanghai health official linked to the British pharma won't be so lucky. He'll spend nearly two decades behind bars for accepting pharma company bribes and embezzling more than 4.4 million yuan, China's state news agency says.

The Shanghai Number One Intermediate People's Court has jailed Huang Fengping, former deputy director for the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, for 19 years, according to a Xinhua report seen by the South China Morning Post. Media reports have tied his case to the GSK scandal, though the Shanghai court made no public mention of the drugmaker.

Police arrested Fengping back in December 2013, just months after officials accused Glaxo of using travel agencies to funnel bribes to local doctors and healthcare professionals. At the time, investigators found more than 400 envelopes stuffed with cash at Fengping's home--not to mention gold bars and foreign currency in the boot of his car, the SCMP reports.

Both cases are part of an ongoing country-wide corruption crackdown that has ensnared both foreigners and locals. But compared with Fengping's sentence, Glaxo's punishment looks like a slap on the wrist. Last September, China saddled the company with a $500 million fine, and former China head and Briton Mark Reilly--considered the mastermind behind the bribery scheme--reportedly received a three-year suspended sentence and deportation.

But while GSK has already publicly apologized and tried to put the matter behind it, other drugmakers could potentially find themselves in the spotlight. In 2013, Chinese authorities visited several of Glaxo's Big Pharma peers and rumors circled that they were investigating a handful of others, including France's Sanofi ($SNY). And while there hasn't been much noise on that front since, China's government has cautioned other foreign companies that if they cross the line, they could be next to face penalties.

"The case is a warning to other multinationals in China that ethics matter," it wrote in a Xinhua editorial last May.

- get more from the SCMP

Special Report: Top 10 drugmakers in emerging markets - GSK | Top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - GlaxoSmithKline