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20:41, 09 February 2018

Greek Politicians May possibly Have Taken Bribes from Drug Maker, Prosecutors Say


Greek Politicians Might Have Taken Bribes from Drug Maker, Prosecutors Say

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ATHENS — A report from Greek prosecutors has identified that ten high-profile politicians, including two former prime ministers and a prime European Union official, may possibly be linked to bribery accusations involving a Swiss drug manufacturer.

The inquiry, which was sent to Parliament on Tuesday by anticorruption prosecutors in Athens, is centered on accusations that the pharmaceutical giant Novartis created payments to politicians in exchange for fixing the costs of its medicines at artificially high levels and rising its access to the Greek market.

According to prosecutors, who have been assisted by the F.B.I., the bribes are estimated to be in the millions of euros, and the losses to the Greek state could have been in the billions.

The prosecutors said that Greek officials accepted income from Novartis among 2006 and 2015, a time frame that consists of a period in which Athens was under pressure from creditors to tighten spending and include a economic crisis.

Two former prime ministers, Antonis Samaras and Panagiotis Pikramenos, and the European Union’s prime official for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, have been amongst those on their list.

The names of the 10 politicians have been read out in Parliament on Tuesday when the report was submitted by Tasia Christodoulopoulou, the head of Parliament’s transparency committee and a lawmaker for the governing celebration, Syriza. All 10 have denied the allegations.

Under Greek law, politicians can’t be directly prosecuted by the judicial authorities. Circumstances must very first be referred to Parliament, and lawmakers must revoke immunity and pave the way for indictments.

A government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, stated on Friday that Mr. Tsipras would get in touch with on Monday for Parliament to develop committee to investigate the claims. Should the committee locate evidence of criminal activity, it could suggest that lawmakers lift the immunity of the politicians in question.

Deputy Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who is in charge of corruption problems, described the case as “the largest scandal considering that the establishment of the Greek state,” referring to Greece’s emergence from the Ottoman occupation in the early 19th century.

The allegations had been met with fury from members of the conservative New Democracy Party, of which Mr. Samaras and Mr. Avramopoulos are members. Mr. Samaras said the accusations amounted to the “most ruthless and ridiculous conspiracy ever” and mentioned he would take legal action against Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Papangelopoulos.

Mr. Avramopoulos, who was Greece’s wellness minister from 2006 to 2009, mentioned on Friday that the bribery claims were a “conspiracy,” getting earlier referred to as the case the item of “sick minds.” He stated he would ask the Supreme Court to allow the identities of 3 protected witnesses to be revealed, referring to “a wretched slander involving fake witnesses in masks.”

The New Democracy leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused the government of “trying to slander an complete party,” prompting Mr. Tsipras’s office to counter that the opposition leader was “trying to intimidate witnesses, prosecutors, judges and in the end the Greek justice technique.”

Pavlos Sarakis, a lawyer representing the 3 witnesses, told Greek tv on Thursday that his clientele had been leading Novartis executives who appealed to the American authorities and provided details to the F.B.I. in 2016 and 2017.

Novartis has been the subject of numerous bribery and corruption inquiries — in China, South Korea, Turkey and the United States — in the past three years. It mentioned in an emailed statement on Thursday that it was cooperating “with requests from regional and foreign authorities.” The statement added that neither Novartis nor any of its “current associates” had received an indictment in connection with the Greek case.

Konstantinos Frouzis, a former vice president of Novartis in Greece, pressed on Wednesday for the prosecutors’ report to be made public, calling the case a “gross farce.” He surrendered his passport on Thursday to prosecutors.

The claims and counterclaims have produced a furious political storm as the nation prepares for common elections scheduled for next year, with New Democracy major Mr. Tsipras’s leftist Syriza in opinion polls.

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Published at Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:17:05 +0000


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