There was surprise in both judicial and political circles Thursday following a decision by the plenary of the Athens Court of Appeals to reject a request by a Supreme Court prosecutor for a special magistrate to be assigned to the controversial Novartis investigation.
The proposal by Vassilis Pliotas had widely been expected to be approved, which would have taken the case out of the hands of corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, who is under investigation over claims that she sought to implicate 10 prominent politicians in the affair.
Of the 307 judges who form the court’s plenary, 112 participated in the vote, of whom a majority of 69 deemed that no magistrate should be assigned to oversee interrelated Novartis investigations but that they should continue to be probed separately. According to sources, most of the judges who voted for things to stay as they are argued that the probes are in full swing and should not be disrupted.
As regards the most critical aspect of the affair, namely whether Greek politicians received bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical firm to expand its market share, most judges deemed that this should remain under the oversight of the corruption prosecutor as, although the cases against seven of the 10 implicated politicians have been shelved, two are still being probed (former health ministers Adonis Georgiadis and Dimitris Avramopoulos), while the 10th – also a former health minister – Andreas Loverdos faces criminal charges.
The 40 judges who voted in favor of a specialist magistrate being appointed to oversee the various strands of the Novartis affair argued, for the most part, that it is a serious case that must be resolved comprehensively and without delay.
Alongside the judicial investigation into the Novartis affair, a parliamentary committee has been tasked with investigating whether former SYRIZA alternate justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos tried to influence the original probe and to implicate rival politicians.