The ongoing investigation into Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and the way it has been handled has caused a lot of damage to both the government and the country.
I have no doubt there was a massive and expensive orgy of mismanagement in the health sector and that bribes were paid to doctors, politicians and civil servants.
It was all part of a larger orgy of corruption that lasted decades and – unfortunately – involved the main political parties that governed the country. The main players who were involved in public procurements in two or three crucial sectors of the government operated in an environment of institutionalized corruption.
It is the duty of the Greek state seek serious compensation from those who participated in this sinful game. Unfortunately it has not done so, because political idiocy has prevailed and politicians are only interested in exposing their opponents.
As a result, other countries which also investigated and reached a compromise with Siemens, such as Nigeria, have managed to secure benefits from the pharmaceutical company. None of this is happening in Greece, because politicians – previous and current – are afraid they will be accused of selling their soul to the devil if they agree to accept the establishment of a research center or the creation of more jobs by the company as compensation.
In the case of Novartis, the government evidently wanted to politically and morally eliminate several political rivals. It was driven either by some secret agenda or pure hostility.
Everything happened fast and in a superficial manner. In an orchestrated campaign, people made the headlines despite the lack of any serious evidence. If authorities had targeted one or two politicians or state officials on the basis of concrete evidence, then we would be faced with a legitimate probe.
In this case, however, there was no intention to sort the wheat from the chaff – as long as the government got what it wanted. It was however the first time that citizens with a left-wing background realized that something was not right. Although they perceived the old political system as rotten and corrupt, they saw the whole Novartis investigation as lacking democratic legitimacy.
Meanwhile, something reasonable yet dangerous happened. The Novartis affair burned the last remaining bridges between the government and a key chunk of the opposition. When someone tries to defame you without any evidence, tension is inevitable.
Too much has been said about the case to be sure about how it will end. Anyone who is found guilty should join Akis Tsochatzopoulos behind bars. As for the rest, an apology will not do. Novartis should be an example of how not to deal with similar cases in the future.