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BEIJING—Police in China have detained employees of PLC, following allegations from an internal tipster that some at the U.K. drug giant’s Chinese operations were involved in bribery.

Officials in China’s central city of Changsha said on Friday that an undisclosed number of employees were being held due to suspected economic crimes. Public-security officials are launching an investigation, a spokesman said on Monday.

He declined to disclose details, including when the employees were detained, or how many.

Police didn’t provide the details of employee detentions nor details on whether workers were being charged. Attempts to reach employees Monday were unsuccessful.

GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement Monday that the company was aware of an investigation by government authorities in China but said the nature of the investigation wasn’t yet clear to the company.

"Of course we will cooperate with the inquiry," GlaxoSmithKline said.

The police intervention comes as GlaxoSmithKline has been investigating allegations from an anonymous tipster that its China-based sales staff was allegedly involved in widespread bribery of doctors to prescribe drugs, in some cases for unauthorized uses, between 2004 and 2010.

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