Greek judges call for calm over Novartis scandal

The investigation was launched in mid-December 2016 with evidence of bribery of thousands of state officials and doctors in order for Novartis to get preferential treatment in the market. [Shutterstock]

The Greek Union of Judges and Prosecutors called for “calmness and sobriety” on Friday (16 February), following a lawsuit by former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras against Premier Alexis Tsipras and Prosecutor of Corruption Eleni Touloupaki over the Novartis scandal.

“Calmness and sobriety are a prerequisite for shedding light on the case,” the Union said in a statement and expressed its concerns about the lawsuit launched by the former conservative prime minister (New Democracy-EPP).

Samaras, whose name appears in the Novartis case file, noted on 15 February that under Tsipras’s responsibility a “miserable conspiracy was set up”, which threatens the democratic regime.

“At a time when Greece faces great challenges and threats, they [the government] are lying and besmearing their opponents by dividing the Greek people,” Samaras said.

Samaras also sued two of the three protected witnesses, three prosecutors and Alternate Minister for Corruption Issues Dimitris Papangelopoulos.

The leftist government reacted with irony, referring to a “persistent persecution complex”.

“The only thing, however, that persecutes him, is his past. We recommend that he sues it too.”

Government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos called Samaras’ lawsuit and “unprecedented move” and accused him of interfering with the work of Justice.

“The way he refers to prosecutors, in this case, could be interpreted as an attempt to manipulate, terrorise, or even blackmail the Greek justice,”  Tzanakopoulos said.

Pharma scandal whips up political storm in Greek opposition ranks

A probe into illegal practices of Swiss drugmaker Novartis in Greece, involving thousands of state officials and doctors, has opened the Pandora’s Box in Greek politics as local media have named ten former bigwigs from opposition parties as being targeted by the investigation.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, whose name is also in the case file, has also sued the two protected witnesses for perjury and defamation.

The European Commission has declined to make a comment on the issue.

“Those who threaten, intimidate or sue judges trying to do their job in accordance with the Constitution, I refer them to the announcements of the Supreme Court and even the ‘delayed’ announcement of the Union of Judges,” European Parliament Vice-President Dimitris Papadimoulis [Syriza] told EURACTIV.com.

The Novartis investigation was launched in mid-December 2016 with evidence of bribery of thousands of state officials and doctors in order for Novartis to get preferential treatment in the market.

The scandal has opened the Pandora’s Box in Greek politics as ten high-ranking politicians, all belonging to the opposition parties of New Democracy and Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (S&D), appeared in the case file.

The Greek probe followed a two-year investigation conducted by the US authorities on the methods Novartis allegedly used to prevail in the market.

It is estimated that the cash-strapped country has lost approximately €3 billion due to the scandal.

Next Wednesday (21 February), a debate and vote on the proposal by the parliamentary majority to set up a preliminary investigation committee for the Novartis case will take place.

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