Novartis Whistleblowers Covers Blown, Probe Whether They Took Bribes

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

ATHENS – The alleged scandal around the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has continued to unravel with reports that the identity of three people claiming to be whistleblowers becoming known and an investigation into whether they took bribes.

A parliamentary committee is looking into alleged political interference in the case by former alternative justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos when the Radical Left SYRIZA was in power.

Former premier Alexis Tsipras said that 10 political rivals took bribes from Novartis, based on the word of the whistleblowers – one of whom has already become known when stopped trying to get to Spain – and without a shred of evidence being produced.

Seven of those secretly accused, including former premier and then New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras have already been cleared with the targets saying the scandal was trumped up to get them and get Tsipras and SYRIZA re-elected.

That fell apart when the Leftists were routed in July 7, 2019 snap elections after Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises during his 4 ½-year reign to get a third bailout from the country’s European creditors, for 86 billion euros ($93 billion.)

The parliament committee asked the Supreme Court to review the status of the whistleblowers whose identities have been protected, reported Kathimerini, even as it was said their stories kept changing and they couldn’t produce any proof.

The petition also includes testimony of witnesses claiming to know the true identity of protected witnesses because they say they saw who they were during the period of their examination by corruption prosecutors, the paper said.

The high court also is reportedly being asked to review whether the whistleblowers – not those they named – had taken money from Novartis, which has denied paying anyone to boost its business standing in Greece.

The committee wants the court to consider lifting protection for the self-claimed whistleblowers over suspicions they took bribes and to compel them to testify as they have refused to appear even though bench warrants were being sought.

All parties in Parliament, except SYRIZA, took part in asking the high court to get involved in the long-running melodrama which has seen no one prosecuted and charges flying back and forth, even between prosecutors who claimed meddling was going on.

Warrants had to be issued for two of the protected witnesses, known by the pseudonyms Maximos Sarafis and Ekaterini Kelesi, after they failed to present themselves for scheduled hearings at Athens Police Headquarters and refused to be questioned by the parliamentary committee even though legally they can’t be compelled.

Any attempt to cover up Novartis scandal will not pass, SYRIZA’s Charitsis says

“Any attempt to cover up the Novartis scandal and intimidation of the protected witnesses will not pass,” stated SYRIZA spokesperson Alexis Charitsis to Alpha radio on Friday.

He said that the scandal has taken international dimensions and “only in Greece some political and media interests are attempting to present it as a plot” accusing the majority of the pre-investigation committee of “unprecedented manipulations.”

“The Greek people should know what really happened and why the country has lost billions of euros as a result of the Novartis scandal. Everything should come into the limelight,” he said.

He said that the primary residence protection issue is critical and added that “SYRIZA insists on the protection of the first residence against the funds and the banks that are coveting the people’s properties.”

Charitsis said that “we should not experience what other European countries experienced in the first years of the crisis.” He said that a broad front against ruling New Democracy’s attempt for the total abolition of the protection of first residence is needed which will safeguard those who cannot meet their obligations. “If the people lose their homes, there is no reason to speak of growth and social prosperity,” he added.

On discussions regarding the EU budget in the period 2021-2027, the SYRIZA spokesman said that “Europe is turning a blind eye to the risks and one of them is the widening of the inequalities. Unfortunately, it appears to insist on restrictive policies, on austerity policies which hinder growth.”