Greek Lawmakers Will Debate Novartis Alleged Scandal Report

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Although a government-controlled committee has already dropped its probe into an alleged scandal surrounding the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and 10 rival politicians, the Parliament will vote on the panel’s report on May 18.

Prosecutors and the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition, saying it was the most massive scandal in modern Greek history, accused the politicians of taking bribes from the company to fix prices and control the flu shot market.

The case is based on testimony of three secret witnesses protected under the country’s whistleblower laws but their stories are said to keep changing and no hard evidence has been produced.

The committee controlled by SYRIZA and lawmakers from its junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), after much fanfare and ballyhoo, quietly dropped the investigation, saying it lacked jurisdiction.

Despite that, a hot-blooded debate is expected with many of the accused – several of whom are suing to reveal the witnesses names and for slander – are expected to testify in their defense or submit written statements.

Among them are former Premier and previous New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, former PASOK Socialist leader and one-time finance minister Evangelos Venizelos and European Commission migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos, from New Democracy.

SYRIZA said its hands and those of all its ministers and officials are clean and that it’s only rival politicians who are dirty and corrupt although there’s no evidence of wrongdoing and as the targets said the government is trying to distract attention from plummeting in the polls after Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises and as his anti-nationalist party wants to give away the name Macedonia to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) permanently.

The debate will be followed by 10 separate votes against each of the accused with the government holding a three-vote majority in the Parliament, enough to condemn all of its political enemies without proof they did anything wrong.

Although it has not been made explicit, it appears a “No” vote would confirm the report’s findings, according to which Parliament is not competent to investigate the affair, said Kathimerini, giving the panel and government a chance to clear itself for bringing the probe in the first place.

Opposition lawmakers refused to take part in the panel’s work and walked out. The quiet ending was in sharp contrast to the bombast that came when the case was brought and some of the accused testified in Parliament, ripping the government and the prosecutors and witnesses and demanding to be cleared.