Shanghai health official held, media cite GSK link

SHANGHAI (AFP) - A Shanghai health official has been arrested on suspicion of crime, local authorities said, with state media linking his downfall to the bribery scandal surrounding British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

Huang Fengping, who was suspended earlier this month as deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission for Health and Family Planning, was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly committing a crime, the Shanghai Municipal People's Prosecution Service said in a one-sentence statement.

It gave no further details, but state media have reported that Huang allegedly accepted bribes in his earlier positions at local hospitals and might be involved in the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) commercial bribery case.

"Huang Fengping has close relatives working at GlaxoSmithKline and some family members have migrated to Canada," an unnamed source told the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper earlier this month.

Chinese authorities said in July that GSK staff had bribed government officials, pharmaceutical industry groups, hospitals and doctors to help sales of their products and increase prices for drugs.

State media quoted a public security bureau official as saying that GSK had transferred around 3 billion yuan (S$620 million) to more than 700 travel agencies and consultancy firms since 2007.

Police have detained four top GSK executives as well as a British fraud investigator, Peter Humphrey, whose company has worked for GSK.

GSK says it is concerned about allegations of misconduct and is co-operating with the investigation.

The inquiry was launched at a time when China launched sweeping probes into alleged malpractice by foreign firms in various sectors, and against the backdrop of an anti-graft campaign backed by President Xi Jinping to root out corrupt officials from the party.

Huang has been removed from the list of leaders on the website of the local health commission.