GlaxoSmithKline has appointed one of its top European executives as the new chief of its China operations, as the drugmaker seeks to repair its tainted image in connection with the bribery scandal in the country.

Herve Gisserot, senior vice-president for Europe, will replace Mark Reilly as general manager of China operations.

Reilly will continue with GSK as a senior member of the management team, according to media reports, citing a company spokesman. He will help lead GSK's response to the bribery investigation in China, but it was not clear whether he would return to China.

"From what we understand and have been told by the authorities there are no allegations of wrongdoing against Mark," the spokesman said.

Gisserot will take over his new role in the coming weeks and will focus on running GSK's China business as smoothly as possible. He currently acts as president of the French pharmaceutical industry trade body LEEM, a position he would leave at the end of August.

Travel Ban on Finance Head Lifted

The spokesman added that the travel restrictions on GSK's finance head for China, Steve Nechelput, are believed to have been removed. Nechelput will remain in his role as finance director for GSK China and will continue to work in the country.

Earlier, Chinese authorities had banned Nechelput from leaving China as part of the country's investigation into the alleged bribery, raising concern about the scale of the investigation. However, he had not been questioned or detained by authorities.

The move came after Reilly left the country shortly after the investigation was revealed and had not returned. According to a GSK spokesman, Reilly had long-scheduled meetings in Britain.

GSK Response

Last week, China's Ministry of Public Security accused the unnamed GSK executives of routing 3bn yuan (£324m, €375m, $489m) in bribes to doctors through 700 travel agencies and consultancies over six years.

In connection with the allegations, Chinese authorities have taken four GSK executives into custody and claimed that a number of executives at GSK had admitted to criminal charges of bribery and tax law violations.

GSK also admitted that some Chinese executives appeared to have broken the law but CEO Andrew Witty said that their head office had no prior knowledge about the wrongdoing.

"It appears that this is a consequence of some individuals working outside of the controls and processes of the company to defraud the company as well as to then go on and do things which are potentially illegal," Witty earlier said on a call to discuss quarterly earnings.

The company hired law firm Ropes & Gray to carry out an independent investigation into the case.