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3 UK NRIs in drug price fixing scam

The scam came to light following a major investigation into pricing in the pharmaceutical industry.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 23:16 IST

Nine people, including three of Indian origin, face criminal proceedings in Britain for allegedly price fixing and market sharing of generic drugs.

The scam came to light following a major investigation into pricing in the pharmaceutical industry.

The criminal proceedings were launched on Wednesday by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) against the nine individuals, including Anil Kumar Sharma, formerly of Ranbaxy (UK) Ltd, and Ajit Ramanlal Patel and Kirti Vinubhai Patel, both of Goldshield Group Plc.

SFO sources said the allegations against the individuals and five related companies concerned pricing and supply of warfarin, the branded drug Marevan and penicillin-based antibiotics amoxicillin, ampicillin, flucloxacillin, phenoxymethylpenicillin between January 1996 and December 2000.

The five companies for whom summons have been issued are Kent Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Norton healthcare Ltd, Generics (UK) Ltd, Ranbaxy (UK) Ltd, and Goldshield Group PLC.

Apart from the three India-origin individuals, summons were also issued to Denis O'Neill and John Clark, both of Kent Pharmaceuticals Limited; Jonathan Close and Nicholas Foster, both formerly of Norton Healthcare Limited; Luma Auchi, formerly of Regent-GM Laboratories Limited (now in liquidation); and Michael Sparrow, formerly of Generics (UK) Limited.

The case controller, assistant director Philip Lewis, said: "This important case involving an allegation of dishonest price-fixing by companies is likely to have a significant impact upon the business culture of this country."

In a statement, the Goldshield Group said two of its directors - Ajit Patel and Kirti Patel - had been told they would be charged on April 7 in relation to an alleged conspiracy to defraud the secretary of state for health and others in relation to warfarin and Marevan.

"Goldshield and both directors continue to maintain that they did not act in a way that was unlawful or improper," it said.

The SFO has been investigating allegations of a drugs cartel set up to swindle the National Health Service for several years. The investigation centres on suspected collusion by companies on price-fixing in the supply of penicillin-based antibiotics and the blood-thinning drug warfarin, used to treat stroke victims.

All the firms involved have denied any wrongdoing.