With Whistleblower Infighting, Alleged Novartis Scandal Unraveling

FILE - Greece’s lawmakers voted and approved a probe into an alleged scandal in which prosecutors allege that 10 politicians took bribes from the pharmaceutical company Novartis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – One of three whistleblowers who said 10 political rivals of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led Greek coalition took bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has been accused by the others of taking money as well, turning topsy-turvy what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared the biggest scandal in Greek history, without any proof.

After former Health Ministry advisor Nikos Maniadakis was stopped at the international airport on his way to Madrid where he also works, police raided his home, taking away his passport and computer but little else, said Kathimerini.

He then appeared on Greek TV SKAI channel – where a bomb had been set off outside last month and as officials from SYRIZA are boycotting appearances after declaring the station isn’t sympathetic to the party or platform.

Maniadakis said he had been pressured by prosecutors to name politicians as taking bribes but neither he nor the other whistleblowers, whose names had been kept secret, have produced any evidence and one is now said to be changing her story.

The other two were said to have charged he took 120,000 euros ($136,456) from Novartis to help the company grow its dominance in Greece, the same reason he and the other two allegedly cited was why those they named – including two former Prime Ministers and Bank of Greece Gov. Yannis Stournaras – had taken money.

The accused have denied any wrongdoing, several are suing and demanding the identity of the accusers and said the whole case was made up by SYRIZA and Tsipras as political revenge to get them as he is plummeting in polls in an election year after repeatedly reneging on anti-austerity promises.

Maniadakis though wasn’t arrested or detained despite being charged with bribe taking under a passive embezzlement law, the paper said. He told SKAI he was being squeezed to reveal names by prosecutors and officials he didn’t name.

Judicial sources insisted no pressure was brought to bear on him but there was no official statement although the Union of Judges and Prosecutors blasted Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis who said they were stalling the investigation.

But that was after the former head of Novartis’ Greece operation was cleared and reports he wasn’t even called to testify against anyone and as two doctors were also acquitted by the courts of charges of taking bribes after producing proof it was payment for services.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to an “unprecedented undermining of our democratic institutions.”

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