NEWS

Novartis case file may return to prosecutors, sources say

IOANNA MANDROU

TAGS: Politics, Justice

As political tensions continue to simmer following a vote in Parliament that paved the way for the creation of a committee to investigate 10 Greek politicians in connection with allegations of bribery in connection with Swiss drugs manufacturer Novartis, sources say the case file might return to prosecutors. 

The 21-member committee, which is to be set up over the next few days, is expected to probe the two former prime ministers and eight ex-ministers for around a month before issuing a report with its findings. 

However, even before the committee’s formation, judicial sources are saying it is likely that the case file will be returned to prosecutors.

There are two key problems: a lack of evidence to substantiate the claims of protected witnesses and the fact that some of the alleged offenses have expired under the statute of limitations. 

Even some government officials questioned the prospects for the probe moving forward.

SYRIZA’s parliamentary spokesman Nikos Xydakis told Real FM that he believed the committee would “roughly” follow the course of the investigation for Yiannos Papantoniou, a former finance minister.

In Papantoniou’s case, the investigation was returned to prosecutors when it was determined that his alleged offenses had expired under the statute of limitations. 

The government and the main conservative opposition New Democracy continued to trade barbs Thursday following a marathon session in Parliament about the Novartis affair.

ND spoke of a “failure” for the leftist-led government, noting that its “attempt to criminally persecute its rivals clearly amounted to nothing more than a political persecution.”

"The accusers became the accused,” ND said, suggesting that the arguments of conservative lawmakers in the House were stronger and more compelling than those of government officials. 

The office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hit back, declaring that “the only failure in Parliament is the stance of ND,” and claiming that ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is “scared of his own MPs.” 

ND boycotted the 10 secret ballots for the 10 politicians mentioned in the prosecutors’ report. The motion to set up a committee passed with the support of coalition MPs and some lawmakers from other opposition parties. 

Hours after the vote, European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was Greek health minister from 2006 to 2009, accused the SYRIZA-led government of engineering a politically motivated campaign to smear the reputation of its rivals.

“I am determined to seek vindication, beyond any shadow of doubt, and this will occur when it is proven in court that the testimonies against me are false in their entirety. They are fabricated and dictated,” he said.

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