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Police in China have accused GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of making ‘illegal transfers’ of up to $489m through travel agencies, as authorities release further details about a current investigation into bribery allegations.

Head of the economic crimes investigation unit Gao Feng said four senior Chinese executives from GSK have been held, reports the BBC.

Feng added that GSK transferred as much as $489m to more than 700 travel agencies and consultancies since 2007.

He did not say how much of the money was spent allegedly bribing officials and doctors, or give an indication of how the alleged bribes involving GSK executives worked in practice.

"We have sufficient reason to suspect that these transfers were conducted illegally."

Feng also said that there were also instances of ‘sexual bribery’, but did not disclose further information.

British multinational firm GSK has said it is fully co-operating with the investigation, but it has found no evidence of corruption internally.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security said on the 11 July that GSK executives had confessed to bribery and tax offences.

Authorities have said they believe GSK had been offering bribes to officials and doctors to try to boost sales in China.

"We have sufficient reason to suspect that these transfers were conducted illegally," Gao said.

Image: Four Chinese GSK senior employees have been held. Photo: courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton.