GlaxoSmithKline has been accused of co-ordinating widescale bribery in China rather than individuals acting on their own initiative.

The drugs major has been mired in scandal this summer, notably through reported tax irregularities and allegations of bribes paid through travel agencies to doctors. GSK had put the blame at the door of senior executives who the company said had acted outside its processes and controls.

However, the state-owned Xinhua news agency has reported that while "more individuals involved in the case have admitted some facts of the suspected transgressions…it is becoming clear that it is organised by GSK China rather than drug salespeople's individual behaviour".

Xinhua reports that "every team for big customers" has almost 10 million yuan (over $1.6 million) of "public relations funds" to keep close ties with key staff in major hospitals. It quotes Huang Hong, "a high-ranking executive" of GSK China, as saying that the company assigned annual growth goals as high as 25% in recent years, 7%-8% more than the average growth rates of the industry, while salaries are "closely linked to sales volume".

Mr Huang, ex-business development manager and one of four senior executives from GSK held by Chinese police in July on suspicion of having committed serious economic crimes, reportedly admitted that hitting sales targets could not be reached "if there was no dubious corporate behaviour".

The Xinhua article goes on to say that when investigated, the company "passed the buck" to its salesforce, while the police probe has found that "GSK China went through the motions in internal auditing so as not to discover these violations".