NEWS

MPs to decide whether politicians should be probed over Novartis

DORA ANTONIOU, BOURDARAS GIORGOS

TAGS: Politics, Justice, Corruption

As MPs prepare for a debate in Parliament on whether 10 Greek politicians should be investigated in connection with allegations by prosecutors that they accepted bribes from the Swiss drugs manufacturer Novartis, political tensions are expected to heighten.

“We don’t want Parliament to become an arena or a Colosseum,” the head of leftist SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, Costas Zachariadis, told Parapolitika radio on Tuesday.

Critics have accused the government of a witch hunt, noting that there is no concrete evidence connecting the two former premiers and eight former ministers to the scandal.

The politicians mentioned in the prosecutors’ report are expected to address the House on Wednesday in what is certain to be a tense session. Party leaders will also take the floor, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expected to stress that corruption scandals contributed toward Greece’s financial crisis.

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was Greece’s health minister from 2006 to 2009, will be in New York for a meeting but is expected to send a written statement.

In an interview with Skai’s “Istories” (Stories) program that aired late last night, Avramopoulos said he was open to being investigated so that the affair can be resolved. “Justice will speak, until the moment when those scumbags who set up this conspiracy find themselves in the dock,” he said. “Let them investigate my colleagues,” he said. “And if they find anything, let them face the firing squad.”

Avramopoulos also defended former conservative premier Costas Karamanlis, under whom he served as health minister. “Mr Karamanlis is a responsible politician,” he said. “He was a very good prime minister and was informed on all issues,” he said, adding that Karamanlis has given “specific directions on those issues.”

It appears that there will be 10 ballots – one for each politician mentioned in the prosecutors’ report. Conservative New Democracy has objected to this proposal, accusing the government of trying to put on a “show” to slander its political rivals, and has called for just one vote.

However, some sources within the government indicated on Tuesday that stoking tensions over the Novartis affair is far from ideal at a time when authorities are working on emerging from the country’s third international bailout and facing major foreign policy challenges.

In a related development, former socialist minister Evangelos Venizelos took legal action against one of the three protected witnesses whose testimonies have provided the basis for their report. ND’s vice president, and former health minister, Adonis Georgiadis sued all three witnesses. 

Later on Tuesday, a vice prosecutor of the Supreme Court Dimitris Papapageorgiou said the three witneses had been placed under “increased protection” on February 9 when the case file went to Parliament as they are witnesses of “public interest.” The comment provoked angry reactions from Venizelos and others. 

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