It is imperative that the Novartis corruption scandal be investigated in full, with regard both to its financial aspect and to the previous government’s alleged effort to use it to defame its political rivals. The punishment of those involved in one or the other aspect of the case is the only way to put an end to efforts to exploit criminal cases for political ends. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ wish to keep the investigation from looking like a vendetta is understandable. The procedures that will be followed must be flawless, so that citizens can believe that something is changing. All those involved in the probe – whether in the judiciary or in Parliament – must know that in the end they, too, will be judged by a society that does not tolerate the mentalities and behavior of the past.
An important part of the “Novartis scandal” is the suspicion that, on the one hand, corruption has political cover, and, on the other, any judicial investigation is politically motivated. The SYRIZA government’s handling of the issue was based on this mentality and also reinforced it: Its actions were so clumsy, so exaggerated, so patently cynical that they overwhelmed and hid the true dimensions of the corruption in the pharmaceutical sector. It was as if government officials said: “Seeing as there is smoke, why don’t we blacken the names of anyone we want? Who cares whether they are innocent or guilty? It’s their problem.” The real problem, though, is that they poisoned the political scene, no one believed them, and the true dimensions of the scandal were ignored in the noise.
Just as in the first half of 2015, when SYRIZA believed that it could dictate terms to the European Union, Alexis Tsipras’s government continued to act on the domestic scene as if it did not believe that one day it would no longer be in power, as if the actions of its officials would have no consequences. SYRIZA’s people responded to the protests of those whom they vilified by saying that the guilty were just trying to hide their guilt. Now they accuse those in government of trying to take revenge on them, with the alleged aim of hiding the truth. They make no mention of their own role in undermining the search for the truth.
It is difficult, divisive and counterproductive to besmirch senior politicians. The previous government paid no heed to this; the present one is more careful. The investigations by the Parliament and the judiciary, however, must proceed with determination. If they find those guilty of corruption and those guilty of any conspiracy, and if those people pay the price, this might just limit theft and bribery, and maybe even strike a blow against amoral behavior in politics.