GlaxoSmithKline's recent troubles in China have been exacerbated by reports that senior staff are under police investigation following accusations of fraud and bribery.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that a senior Glaxo finance executive in Shanghai and employees in Beijing have been detained as part of a corruption investigation, accused of being involved in “economic crimes". The story comes a couple of weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a whistleblower had sent information to GSK's board claiming that sales staff in China had routinely bribed doctors to use the firm's drugs.

GSK had responded by saying that it had investigated the claims made by the whistleblower and concluded there was no evidence of widescale bribery or corruption at its Chinese operations. Last month, the company dismissed Jingwu Zang, head of its R&D operations in China, and placed others on leave concerning allegations of misrepresentation of data in a research paper.

Simon Steel, a GSK spokesman, told Bloomberg that "we are still unclear on what the precise nature of the investigation is". He did confirm whether any staff have been arrested or detained, adding that "we don’t know if it’s connected to the whistleblower’s bribery and corruption allegations".