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For the past two years, anticorruption compliance has been the hot topic in international legal circles in Asia. Spurred in particular by a perception of stepped-up enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K. Bribery Act, lawyers have endlessly touted the need for their clients operating in the region to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

So the sweeping allegations made by the Chinese government against British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have taken some by surprise. China’s Ministry of Public Security says it is investigating whether the company paid almost $500 million in bribes, mainly to doctors who prescribed its products.

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