A very fishy story

A very fishy story

For a good detective story to work, famed Greek-American crime writer George Pelecanos told me in Washington some 20 years ago that it needs a solid plot that can stand up to the reader’s scrutiny, down to the smallest detail.

The Novartis case, despite having a gripping main theme – the alleged bribery of 11 former ministers and two ex-prime ministers – has such a childish and flimsy plot that it would certainly be consigned straight to the trash by the author of the Quartet series.

How can you write a decent detective story when the key witness in the case claims that a former prime minister (Antonis Samaras) was foolish and careless enough to ask that his bribe money be brought in a suitcase to his office at Maximos Mansion? A suitcase stuffed with “purple, yellow and red banknotes,” which, the witness claims, the former vice president of Novartis in Greece transported by car up to the door of the prime ministerial residence. Picture it: Constantinos Frouzis taking a “yellow suitcase on wheels” out of the trunk of his car and dragging it to the premier’s office. Sure it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows – so many people come into the Maximos Mansion carrying luggage.

Another “protected witness” claims that European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, as health minister in the Costas Karamanlis government, was being bribed by Novartis in order to convince the prime minister to approve an order for a large quantity of vaccinations produced by the Swiss pharma firm. According to this plot twist, out if all the other prime ministers in the period that supposedly came under investigation, Karamanlis apparently had no idea what his minister was up to but the star witness was somehow able to divine his intentions. Seriously?

There is a lot more such ludicrous “evidence” in the crime story leftist SYRIZA is trying to promote under the title “The old guard is dirty, the new is clean.” For example, yet another astute witness claims that PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos must have been on the take when he was finance minister because a close associate of his allegedly accepted a bribe from Novartis – it is on such irrefutable evidence that the narrative is being built.

What it boils down to is that none of the witnesses is able to produce any evidence to back their accusations, wild speculation, beliefs, etc.

“Unfit for publication” is how any editor worth his salt would dismiss such a story if it were submitted for a newspaper, noting the absence of a start, middle or end, backing evidence or a solid lead.

The government, in contrast, has decided that this is the story that will help it prop up its flagging popularity after being slammed by two large street demonstrations over its handling of the “Macedonia” name dispute, after watching its ratings slip in public opinion polls and after giving everything the creditors asked for. This is the story, it believes, that will halt New Democracy’s rising appeal. It’s trying to clean up its own image by throwing mud at the fan.

And amid all this, nothing is being said about the real scandal, about the fact that multinational firms, with the tolerance of the state and in cooperation with thousands of doctors across the country, have been robbing citizens of this country for years. Nothing is said about the fact that state expenditure on medicines shot up from 2.4 billion euros in 2004 to 5.1 billion euros in 2009 in a profiteering bonanza.

But who cares about the crime committed against the people when there’s a story about politicians?

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