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Two former Greek PMs implicated in Novartis bribery case

Published on 06/02/18 at 09:24am

An ongoing investigated case into Novartis sales practices in Greece has so far implicated 10 current and former politicians. The case relates to the decade between 2006 and 2015, in regards to allegations of bribes being paid by Novartis to officials in order to facilitate the sales of products in the nation.

The case is particularly fraught as it occurred during the global financial crisis, which left Greece on its knees and forced to take stringent austerity measures in return for bailouts by the EU.

Though the ministers in question were not named by the judiciary, it was subsequently revealed to involve high-profile individuals that include two former prime ministers.

Details of the case emerged in 2016 but the scandal had a huge amount of attention brought to it after the attempted suicide of a Novartis official working in the country at the beginning of 2017. Not long after this, Greek prosecutors authorised the raid of Novartis’ offices in the country to gather evidence.

Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister from 2012 to 2015, is one of those who has been caught up in the investigation. Associated Press reported that he had released a statement, reading: “I have been informed of the (prime minister's) latest effort to slander me […] But slander is the weapon of cowards ... Those behind this attack will answer for their actions in court.”

As the lawsuit rumbles on, it looks likely to ensnare many more individuals; at one point, thousands of individuals within the Greek healthcare system were suggested to be involved in promoting Novartis’ products, after having received kickbacks.

“When we are talking about scandals that involve medicine, the moral implications are enormous,” Greek Justice Minister, Stavros Kontonis, was reported by the AP to have said. “At a time of financial crisis and recession, when it's difficult for our poorer fellow citizens to find the drugs they need for their health, there were certain drugmakers who in an illegal and provocative way, worked to provide drugs at inflated prices and used state officials in the National Health Service to make sure certain drugs available where they should not have been.”

As well as Greek officials being involved, a senior official of Novartis is currently being detained in the country, pending the findings of the case.

Due to the amount of time having elapsed since the alleged incidents, those involved in the case look set to be charged under allegations of money laundering.

Ben Hargreaves

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