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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Charges for NHS fraud allegations
The case involves generic antibiotics
Nine people and five companies will be charged with conspiracy to defraud the NHS over drug prices and supply, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said.

The criminal case involves warfarin and several penicillin-based antibiotics.

The SFO said the nine individuals would be charged when they surrendered to bail during the next three days.

"This important case is likely to have a significant impact upon the business culture of this country", said SFO spokesman Philip Lewis.

Conspiracy charges

The people are due to appear at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on 27 April, when the companies are also required to be represented.

The alleged price-fixing happened between 1996 and 2000, the SFO said.

The amount involved could be up to 150 million.

The annual sales of all drugs - both generic and branded - to the NHS was just over 10bn, according the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

Charges are being brought against:

  • Denis William O'Neill and John Stephen Clark - as well as the company they worked for, Kent Pharmaceuticals Limited
  • Jonathan Raymond Close and Nicholas Mark Foster, and their former company Norton Healthcare Limited
  • Luma Auchi, formerly of Regent-GM Laboratories Limited. The company is not being charged because it is in liquidation
  • Michael John Frederick Sparrow, formerly of Generics (UK) Limited, which is also being charged

  • Anil Kumar Sharma and the company he formerly worked for - Ranbaxy (UK) Limited
  • Ajit Ramanlal Patel and Kirti Vinubhai Patel and the company they worked for - Goldshield Group Plc

Goldshield Group issued a statement last week saying Ajit Patel and Kirti Patel had been told they would be charged on 7 April 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.

This is quite possibly the largest case handled by the SFO in terms of the resources we have used
David Jones
Serious Fraud Office

Lawyers for Mr Close and Mr Foster said the pair rejected the allegations.

Irwin Mitchell law firm said the men had "explained clearly [to the SFO] why the allegations are incorrect" but felt the SFO had "misinterpreted the infomation provided to justify this faceless prosecution".

"The unwillingness of the SFO to recognise the truth and to pursue this prosecution at vast public expense is, they believe, confirmation that this prosecution is politically motivated," the lawyers said.

The drugs involved are warfarin, an anticoagulant that thins the blood and reduces the risk of blood clots, the branded drug Marevan and the penicillin-based antibiotics are amoxicillin, ampicillin, flucloxacillin, phenoxymethylpenicillin.

The SFO began its investigation in April 2002 after the counter-fraud directorate of the Department of Health referred the case to it.

SFO spokesman David Jones told BBC that at its peak the investigation involved about 150 SFO staff and police, but now had about 25 people continuing to work on it.

"This is quite possibly the largest case handled by the SFO in terms of the resources we have used," he said.

He said there was a parallel civil case being brought by the Department of Health.




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