Bank of Greece Chief Says No Novartis Scandal

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras (AP Photo)

ATHENS – Already cleared, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, one of nine rival politicians of the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA accused of unfounded charges of taking bribes from the Swiss drug company Novartis said there’s no scandal, as the case has unraveled.

“We are asking for light to be shed on the truth, and I have confidence in Parliament’s procedures and in the new leadership of the justice ministry,” he said, referring to ongoing sessions of a Parliament preliminary fact-finding committee probing charges of a judicial conspiracy, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.

The accused were named by three whistleblowers, two of whom remain secret, who have produced no evidence beyond their claims of overhearing other accusations and as critics said former Premier and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras concocted a fake scandal in a failed bid to win re-election after falling out of favor for reneging on anti-austerity promises.

Two cases are ongoing and only former health minister Andreas Loverdos from the former PASOK Socialists and now with the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) was summoned for questioning as a suspect.

Stournaras reminded that from 2010-14 under a former New Democracy government he served as finance chief that state spending for pharmaceuticals fell from 5.5 billion euros ($6.09 billion) to less than 2 billion euros ($2.21 billion) and with Novartis’ share falling to less than 30 percent of the Greek market.

“Mr. Frouzis (the former VP and General Manager of Novartis Greece) had come to my office (in the finance ministry) with Novartis’ overseas head and told me that Novartis is marginally sustained in Greece. We had employed a ‘haircut’ on bonds, on pharmaceutical prices and we weren’t paying them (for already procured medicines). How then is there a Novartis scandal?” he then asked.

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