NEWS

Corruption probe into Swiss drug firm in Greece speeded up

TAGS: Corruption

Justice Minister Dimitris Kontonis on Tuesday called for an investigation into alleged corruption by Novartis to be speeded up following the suicide attempt in Athens of an executive of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

The unnamed manager tried to jump off the balcony of the roof bar of the Hilton Hotel on New Year’s Day, but was thwarted by police called in by staff.

His suicide attempt injected fresh urgency into the Novartis probe, as he is reportedly one of the executives being questioned over allegations that Greek state officials were bribed to boost sales. The attempt also came in the wake of a raid in December by the Economic Police on the company’s Athens offices.

According to a judicial source quoted by Agence France-Presse, a preliminary investigation has been going on for two months and around 178 people in Greece have already been questioned.

Greece’s ANA-MPA news agency said that Greek authorities have also requested the assistance of the US Justice Department, which, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), first launched an investigation into the NYSE-listed drug maker two years ago.

According to the ANA-MPA, two executives of the company in Greece had presented US authorities with hundreds of documents proving payments to private as well as state hospital doctors to promote the company’s products, in violation of competition rules and the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Calling for a “swift and thorough investigation,” Kontonis on Tuesday also met with corruption prosecutor Eleni Raikou and Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas.

Online