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Ex-NBA worker detained for alleged graft
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A former employee of NBA China, detained for alleged involvement in a suspected bribery scandal involving workers at Coca-Cola's Shanghai bottling plant, is now in the hands of the municipal prosecuratorate while the investigation continues, a local police officer confirmed yesterday.

The ex-worker, who was with NBA China's Shanghai office, was identified during a police probe of irregularities, confirmed Yang Boning, NBA China's director of communications and public affairs, in an interview with China Business News (CBN).

Fang Jie, press officer with the Shanghai Public Securities Bureau, said the former NBA staff member was detained and handed over to the Shanghai Municipal Prosecuratorate early this month.

The prosecutor's office could not be reached for comment.

Shanghai-based CBN yesterday quoted unidentified sources as saying the detained employee, who worked at NBA China's event division, was thought to be involved in the recent bribery scandal in which two ex-employees with Coca-Cola's bottler, Shanghai Shenmei Beverage & Food Co Ltd, were suspected of having solicited bribes from a local marketing firm.

CBN reported that the NBA had dismissed the employee and the media organization quoted Yang as saying the issue had no connection to the NBA's normal business operation in China.

Kenth Kaerhoeg, Coca-Cola Pacific's group communications director, declined to comment on the development but did confirm by email that two of the company's former employees at its Shanghai-based bottling plant had been detained by the police for allegedly soliciting kickbacks from suppliers.

Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily has reported that one of the detained workers from Shenmei's marketing division took more than 10 million yuan (US$1.47 million) in bribes.

Police declined to identify the nationality or gender of the detained former NBA worker.

The former Coca-Cola employees are currently in the care of the Shanghai Pudong New District Prosecuratorate while the probe continues.

In addition to the office in Shanghai, the NBA has a presence in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei, with more than 100 staff in the region.

The Coca-Cola bribery scandal follows another high-profile alleged graft case involving Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. In that case, four Shanghai-based employees were formally arrested last month over allegations they took part in commercial bribery and the transfer of trade secrets.

"More bribery cases concerning multinational firms will be exposed to the public as China cracks down harder on commercial corruption," said Chen Fengying, a researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily September 24, 2009)

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