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Coca-Cola says 2nd ex-employee in China detained
Published on: 2009-09-16
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A second former employee of a Coca-Cola Co. bottling plant in China is under investigation for allegedly taking kickbacks, a company spokesman said Tuesday, days after it confirmed the detention of another former employee of the joint venture.

But Kenth Kaerhoeg, a Coca-Cola spokesman in Hong Kong, refuted reports that the former employees of the bottling plant, Shanghai Shen-mei Beverage & Food Co. Ltd., were suspected of bribing officials.

"This matter does not involve bribery of government officials, but instead allegations that the former employees extracted kickbacks from suppliers and embezzled from the bottler," Kaerhoeg said in a statement.

Kaerhoeg said one employee left the company in May, after police began their investigation. The company confirmed that police had detained that person on Sunday. The second, who police said was also referred to prosecutors early this month, had left Shanghai Shen-mei in early 2008.

Both former employees, who have not been identified by name, were Chinese citizens and midlevel managers working in the bottler's marketing department.

Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta, is the world's largest beverage maker and operates 38 bottling plants in China, employing more than 30,000 people.

Employees of other foreign companies in China occasionally also have come under scrutiny for alleged economic crimes.

Last month, Shanghai authorities said they had arrested four employees of Anglo-American mining giant Rio Tinto for allegedly infringing trade secrets and bribery. That investigation is still under way.

Rio Tinto has defended its employees and appealed to officials to handle the case fairly and in a transparent way.

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