Gov’t looks to Parl’t probe on Novartis amid doubts over witnesses

Gov’t looks to Parl’t probe on Novartis amid doubts over witnesses

The government has decided to opt for the formation of a parliamentary committee to probe claims by prosecutors that Greek politicians took bribes from the Swiss drugs manufacturer Novartis even amid protests by some over the reliability of the testimonies on which the case has been built. 

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to call for the formation of a parliamentary committee on Monday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters on Friday. 

A government official acknowledged on Friday, however, that the current evidence is inadequate to secure indictments. 

The conservative New Democracy party indicated that it would support a parliamentary probe but “without witnesses in masks.”

ND was referring to the protected witnesses on which prosecutors have based their claims against 10 Greek politicians.

Addressing a press conference in Athens on Friday, European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos spoke of “conspiracy” and “slander” and said he would ask the

Supreme Court to lift the protective status of witnesses and reveal their identity. He contested the legality of the witnesses’ statements. 

Former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos demanded proof from prosecutors that the witnesses’ protected status had been approved by the Supreme Court. 

The chief corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, as well as prosecutors Christos Dzouras and Stelios Manolis, said in a joint statement that the witnesses were placed under protected status in strict accordance with the law.

They also denied reports that they took part in a meeting with government officials about the Novartis case.

In a bid to boost their case, prosecutors are seeking concrete evidence of the kickbacks alleged to have been paid to Greek officials.

The former vice president of Novartis’s Greek office, Constantinos Frouzis, is expected to be summoned by an investigating magistrate soon.

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