The government has proposed that a parliamentary inquiry be set up to investigate allegations that two ex-prime ministers and eight former ministers accepted bribes from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, with the likely outcome being that the case will be referred back to the justice system.
During a meeting of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group on Monday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the coalition’s intention to ask for a preliminary judicial inquiry into the claims made by three protected witnesses. He said it was the only “institutional path” available to the government. “The case file has to be examined and it has to be established whether there are satisfactory signs that offenses have been committed,” he said.
In a speech that seemed aimed at the voters who helped SYRIZA win the 2015 elections, Tsipras suggested that his government now has an opportunity to tackle past corruption and that uncovering the truth was one of the reasons that Greeks voted for the leftist party three years ago.
He went as far as suggesting that the purchase of overpriced medicines by previous governments had cost 23 billion euros and played a key part in forcing Greece to require a bailout in 2010. “If that 23 billion euros had remained in the public coffers, maybe we would have avoided the adventure we have been on since 2010,” he said.
Tsipras also insisted that his government would seek damages from Novartis, which has vowed to investigate the graft claims. The premier contrasted this approach with the decision by the New Democracy-led government in 2012 to seek an out-of-court settlement with Siemens following the cash-for-contracts scandal involving the German engineering firm.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis hit back by accusing the government of trying to manipulate the judicial system over the Novartis claims and made reference to “hooded informants” darkening the name of opposition politicians, including former prime ministers. “The rule of law is under attack from the underhand tactics of Mr Tsipras’s government,” he said. “Citizens demand transparency.”
The parliamentary inquiry requested by the government is to examine whether there were cases of giving or accepting bribes and if any money laundering took place. The view among MPs is that the parliamentary committee will complete its work swiftly and refer the matter back to the justice system, which will have to decide whether further actions should be taken against any of the accused.rge