British drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline says its finance director for China has been barred from leaving the country amid an investigation into claims its employees bribed doctors.
The company said Steve Nechelput had not been questioned or arrested and was free to travel within China. It said he continued to work in his role as finance director for the company's China unit.
Chinese police announced this week that they believe GSK employees paid bribes to doctors, hospitals and others to encourage them to prescribe the company's medications.
Police say GSK employees funnelled as much as three billion yuan (£59.6 million) through travel agencies and consulting firms to hide the source of bribes, according to Chinese news reports. Investigators have not made clear how much of that money was paid as bribes.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the scheme appeared to be aimed at evading GSK's internal controls meant to prevent bribery. The company has said it opposes bribery and was co-operating with the investigation.
The Chinese drug regulator has launched a crackdown on misconduct in its pharmaceutical market, though it gave no indication it was linked to the GlaxoSmithKline probe.
The State Food and Drug Administration said the campaign was aimed at stamping out unauthorised drug production, improper online drug retailing and sales of fake traditional Chinese medicines.
The new Chinese leadership that took power in November has promised to improve China's health system and rein in surging costs of medicine and medical care that are fuelling public frustration.
China has suffered repeated scandals over fake or shoddy medications, some of which caused deaths and injuries. Regulators have launched repeated crackdowns on false advertising and other violations, but with limited success.
A Commerce Ministry spokesman warned that Chinese and foreign drug manufacturers would face "legal sanctions" for misconduct.