Coalition MPs were poised late on Friday to approve a parliamentary panel’s decision to return to the judiciary an investigation implicating Greek politicians in a bribery scandal involving Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis.
Following hours of acrimonious debate, most of the political opposition parties boycotted the vote, accusing the governing parties of using underhand tactics to discredit their political rivals.
The 10 politicians named in a prosecutors’ report that led to the creation of the parliamentary committee include two former prime ministers and several former ministers.
Some of them took the stand, accusing the leftist-led coalition of a smear campaign against its conservative and socialist rivals.
Former conservative premier Antonis Samaras accused the government of “conspiracy.” “So, for this, you will face a special court,” Samaras said in comments apparently aimed at Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Former finance minister Yannis Stournaras, currently Bank of Greece governor, objected to the Novartis file being returned to the judiciary.
“Parliament should have investigated everything. The charges are wretched and slanderous,” he said. He took aim at the government’s initial claims that the Novartis affair was one of the biggest scandals of all time, claiming that instead “we have the biggest conspiracy since the restoration of democracy.”
Conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he and his MPs “will not participate in a fiasco of a vote with 10 shameful ballots,” adding that they would not “legitimize this wretched machination.”
Tsipras, for his part, insisted that his government remained focused on cracking down on graft, noting that a “monstrous system of corruption” contributed to the country’s debt crisis and that the Novartis allegations “did not just spring up out of nowhere.”
The government has a clear demand, he said, “for the judiciary to continue its investigation.”