French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis received a €28m fine and two of its former employees were quietly convicted of bribery by a German court some 10 months ago, according to prosecutors.

The bribery investigation has not come to light until now because the suspects were sentenced via a simplified legal process that under German law allows courts to try some crimes without a courtroom trial, reported Reuters.

According to prosecutors in the northern German town of Verden, an investigation of the former Sanofi employees found that they had made illicit payments to a consultancy advising one of the drugmaker's clients between 2007 and 2010 to win more orders from the client.

"Sanofi was unfairly given preference because of this," he said.

Nevertheless, he declined to provide details of the client and did not name the former employees or the consultant, the news agency said. The employees worked with Sanofi's sales force and were not senior managers.

In connection with the case, Sanofi was fined €28m ($38.5m, £23m) by the court. A spokeswoman for Sanofi's German subsidiary confirmed the fine, according to the news agency.

"For Sanofi the matter is closed," a spokeswoman for Sanofi's German subsidiary said, confirming the fine.

She noted the company had cooperated with authorities during the bribery probe, and had further tightened its compliance system.

Earlier, German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported the news.

Sanofi and a number of foreign pharmaceutical giants had earlier faced bribery and price-fixing allegations in China.

Among the foreign drugmakers, British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has faced the most high-profile investigation for suspected bribery and tax-related offences in China since early July.

China's Ministry of Public Security accused unnamed GSK executives of routing 3bn yuan in bribes to doctors through 700 travel agencies and consultancies over six years.

In connection with the allegations, Chinese authorities took several GSK executives into custody and claimed a number admitted to criminal charges of bribery and tax law violations.