Novartis Whistleblower Faces Bribery, Money-Laundering Charges

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

ATHENS – One of three whistleblowers who said 10 rival politicians of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition had taken bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis now himself reportedly faces charges of taking money and money-laundering.

Corruption prosecutors in charge of the alleged bribery scandal brought a case against former Health Ministry advisor and academic Nikos Maniadakis, who had his passport taken away but who was not arrested or detained after being stopped at the Athens airport trying to go to Madrid where it was said he also works.

As a suspect he is not allowed to leave the country but his attorney wants that bar lifted and for the charges to be dropped, said Kathimerini.

Two other protected witnesses, who had not been identified,  claimed he had accepted 120,000 euros ($137,421) from Novartis as payment for influencing the government’s health policies.

But the company’s former Greece operations chief was acquitted and not called to be a witness and two doctors also charged with taking money were cleared after they provided proof they were doing legitimate work for the business.

At the same time, Maniadakis’ lawyer has submitted requests for the prosecutors to drop the passive bribery charge and lift the travel ban.

No evidence has been provided but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared all those named by the whistleblowers, including two former Premiers and Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, were guilty of what he called the most massive scandal in Greek history.

Maniadakis 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 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.

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.

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