U.K.-based pharma AstraZeneca said its office in Belgrade, Serbia was served with a criminal indictment 'relating to allegations that local employees . . . made allegedly improper payments to physicians at the Institute of Oncology and Radiology of Serbia.'
The disclosure appeared in AZ's lastest SEC filing. It said the indictment was issued in August 2011.
The company said it has 'filed a number of preliminary procedural objections, which ask the Serbian criminal court to dismiss the indictment.'
Overseas sales practices of the big pharmas have been in the FCPA spotlight.
AstraZeneca appeared on our Corporate Investigations List. In October 2006, it received from the SEC a letter requesting 'documents related to its business activities in Croatia, Italy, Russia, and Slovakia for the period 1 October 2003 to the present.'
The SEC’s investigative letter asked AZ for documents concerning payments to doctors or government officials, and related internal accounting controls.
'The [SEC] request also seeks policies, correspondence, audits and other documents,' AZ said in its 2009 annual report, 'concerning compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as any allegations or communications with prosecutors’ offices relating to corruption or bribery of doctors or government officials.'
Doctors at overseas government-owned or controlled hospitals are considered 'foreign officials' under the FCPA.
AstraZeneca had revenues last year of $33.5 billion. It does business, according to its website, in more than 100 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. It has about 61,000 employees.
AstraZeneca PLC trades on the NYSE under the symbol AZN.
Its Form 6-K (Report of Foreign Issuer) filed November 7, 2011 can be viewed or downloaded here.
AZ's complete disclosure about the Serbian indictment said:
In August 2011, AstraZeneca UK Limited’s Representative Office in Belgrade, Serbia was served with a criminal indictment relating to allegations that local employees of AstraZeneca made allegedly improper payments to physicians at the Institute of Oncology and Radiology of Serbia. AstraZeneca has filed a number of preliminary procedural objections, which ask the Serbian criminal court to dismiss the indictment against the Representative Office.