Novartis Greek Whistleblower Now Scandal Suspect

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – A former Greek Health Ministry advisor who is one of three whistleblowers accusing rival politicians of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition of taking bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is now seen as a suspect in the case.

The witnesses, who are not being named as some of the accused are seeking to lift the veil of secrecy protecting them, haven’t produced a shred of evidence with reports they told prosecutors they had heard the politicians they named had taken money.

The former advisor was stopped trying to flee to Switzerland and charged with bribe taking under the Greek embezzlement law and had his passport taken away but there were no reports whether he was arrested or detained.

It wasn’t indicated what role he had allegedly taken to be considered a suspect, as Kathimerini reported. The unnamed man, who has served as an advisor to several former health ministers, had provided information to corruption prosecutors investigating the practices adopted by the company to dominate the Greek market.

New evidence, however, led authorities to charge him with passive bribery, aggravated by the provisions pertaining to state embezzlers, the same sources said.

The investigation concerns allegations that the drugmaker bribed Greek doctors and prominent public officials to increase its access to the Greek market and sell its products at inflated prices. It is largely based on the testimonies of the three key witnesses.

The man is apparently one of three anonymous “star witnesses” cited in an indictment brought to Parliament by an anti-corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki who said she’s basing her case on their word they may have overheard talk the rival politicians, some of whom are wealthy, took money from Novartis.

That was ostensibly done to fix prices for the company’s drugs in Greece, where is has a dominant position, but the case so far is based entirely on the word of the whistleblowers whose identity is protected by law.

They also named Kostantinos Frouzis, Novartis Greece’s former Executive Vice-president, as overseeing the kickbacks and bribes but he, along with two doctors in the state health system, has been acquitted and wasn’t called to testify against the politicians named.

Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras declared those accused, including two former Premiers, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras and former Finance Minister and one-time leader of the now-defunct PASOK Socialists, Evangelos Venizelos, guilty and said they had perpetrated the most massive scandal in Greek history but they haven’t been prosecuted yet after vehemently denouncing the charges as a political witch hunt.

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