By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) - The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Thursday it expects to decide next year whether it will file criminal charges in bribery investigations related to drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L> and aero engine company Rolls-Royce <RR.L>.
The SFO launched an investigation into GSK and its subsidiaries in 2014. Britain's biggest drugmaker has already been fined a record 3 billion yuan ($452 million) by Chinese authorities for paying bribes to doctors to use its drugs.
The SFO's continued investigation into Rolls-Royce is focusing on individuals after the aero engine maker paid 671 million pounds ($870 million) in January to settle British, U.S. and Brazilian bribery investigations.
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David Green, the head of the SFO, told Reuters in an interview that he hoped a decision about charges would be made before he steps down after six years in the job next April.
"I would expect resolution in both these cases in 2018, and hopefully prior to my departure in April," he said.
Separately, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, which is responsible for SFO director appointments, said the recruitment process for Green's successor had yet to begin. But she said there was "still plenty of time" and that there "will be an appointment in due course".
Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party pledged in May to abolish the specialist investigator and prosecutor and roll it into the four-year-old National Crime Agency (NCA) to "strengthen Britain's response to white collar crime".
But the proposal drew sharp criticism from white collar crime lawyers, lawmakers and anti-corruption groups and was later dropped from the minority government's official two-year policy program.
Lawyers said the omission could signal a reprieve for the agency, which in June charged Barclays <BARC.L>, one of the country's biggest banks, and four former senior executives with fraud over undisclosed payments to Qatari investors in 2008.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Adrian Croft)