NEWS

Medical bribery scandal based on claims of three witnesses

IOANNA MANDROU

A man crosses the street outside the Novartis Greek offices in Athens, on Tuesday.

TAGS: Justice, Politics, Health

The case file of the medical bribery scandal that has rocked the Greek political establishment is primarily based on the testimony of three people who have been included in a witness protection program.

Reports on Tuesday said that, so far, the witnesses claims have not been substantiated by additional evidence. 

The case file which names 10 politicians, including two former premiers, also contains the testimony of 17 other witnesses as well as evidence supplied by US authorities. 

Judicial sources said the three witnesses testified that the alleged illegal payments by the Swiss pharma giant Novartis to supply Greek public hospitals with its products were made between 2007 and 2015 and amounted to almost 50 million euros. 

According to their testimonies, the largest payments, totaling 40 million euros, were made in the period leading up to 2010, while the sums paid after 2010 ranged between 5 and 10 million euros. 

In total, 30 people, some belonging to other drug firms, have been referred to in the case, which government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos described as a “massive scandal.” 

The witnesses also reportedly alleged that former conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras received a suitcase packed with 500-euro notes, while alleging that Panayiotis Pikrammenos, who led a short-lived interim government in 2012, received 100,000 euros. 

In a statement, Samaras referred to “the most ruthless and ridiculous conspiracy ever,” adding that he will take legal action against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Alternate Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos. 

Pikrammenos also dismissed the allegations. “I have no connection to the Novartis pharmaceutical scandal, neither me personally, nor the caretaker government that served from May to June 2012,” he said. 

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and ex-PASOK leader and minister Evangelos Venizelos have also denied the allegations. 

“In my opinion, it contains no evidence against anyone,” Venizelos said. Greek law stipulates that politicians cannot face prosecution unless Parliament votes to strip them of their immunity. 

Novartis has reportedly said it is cooperating with Greek authorities. 

The latest developments will be the focus of a meeting on Wednesday in Parliament between ruling SYRIZA’s parliamentary group and the party’s political council. The government is hoping the Novartis affair will offer it some respite by shifting the focus away from the ongoing FYROM negotiations, which have put the government in the hot seat.

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