FRANKFURT, March 3 A German court convicted two
former employees of Sanofi-Aventis on bribery charges
10 months ago and imposed a fine on the French drugmaker last
year, prosecutors said on Monday following a newspaper report.
News of the 28 million euro ($39 million) fine coincides
with heightened scrutiny of Big Pharma's sales practices after a
bribery scandal in China hit business there last year.
Further investigations are ongoing, a spokesman for
prosecutors in the northern German town of Verden said,
confirming a report by German daily newspaper Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung, but they declined to say whether these were
related to Sanofi or to its employees.
The spokesman said an investigation of the former Sanofi
employees found that they had made illicit payments to a
consultancy advising one of the drugmaker's clients between 2007
and 2010 to win more orders from the client, a pharmaceuticals
"Sanofi was unfairly given preference because of this," he
He declined to provide details on who the client was or
which markets it operated in. He also did not name the former
Sanofi employees or the consultant.
A court in the town of Winsen handed the two former
employees of Sanofi suspended sentences for bribery in business
transactions in May 2013, the spokesman said. They both worked
with Sanofi's sales force and were not senior managers.
The Winsen court also ordered that punishment be meted out
to the owner of the consultancy, but that judgment was not yet
final due to a pending complaint against the ruling.
The bribery investigation has not come to light until now
because the suspects were sentenced via a simplified legal
process that under German law allows courts to try some crimes
without a courtroom trial.
The court's ruling also resulted in a 28 million euro fine
for Sanofi. A spokeswoman for Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH
confirmed the company had to pay that sum in connection with the
case against the two former employees.
"For Sanofi the matter is closed," the spokeswoman said,
referring to the Winsen court's rulings. She added the company
had cooperated with authorities during the investigation and had
since further tightened its compliance system.
Sanofi acquired Aventis in 2004, creating Sanofi-Aventis. In
2011, the company simplified its name to Sanofi.
($1 = 0.7240 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Frank Siebelt; Additional
reporting by Natalie Huet in Paris; Writing by Marilyn Gerlach;
editing by Mike Collett-White)