UPDATE 2-Chinese police to brief media on GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday amid probe

Tue May 13, 2014 5:33am EDT

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(Updates with GSK comment, quote)

BEIJING May 13 (Reuters) - Chinese police will brief the media on Wednesday about British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC , which has been under investigation for allegedly funneling up to 3 billion yuan to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

An official at the Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the police, gave no details about the briefing, which is slated for Wednesday at 11 a.m. (0300 GMT).

A GSK spokesman said the company was aware of the briefing.

"We take the allegations that have been made extremely seriously and we are continuing to cooperate fully with the Chinese authorities in this investigation," he said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Police detained four executives of the British drugmaker in July in connection with the bribery allegations. They include vice president and operations manager Liang Hong, who gave an account on Chinese television in July of how the alleged bribery was carried out.

Legal and industry sources had told Reuters in November that Chinese police were likely to charge some of GSK's Chinese executives but not the British drugmaker itself.

The company has said previously that some of its senior Chinese executives appear to have broken the law, and that it has zero tolerance for bribery.

Bribery between sales staff and doctors is rife in China, with steep sales targets and low salaries for doctors creating fertile ground for backhanders. Local managers can create strong power bases, lawyers and industry insiders said.

A source told Reuters last month that GSK had appointed two executives to new roles overseeing sales and marketing in China, creating a wider gap between the two key functions.

(Reporting by Hui Li and Megha Rajagopalan; Additional reporting by Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI and Ben Hirschler in LONDON; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Miral Fahmy)

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