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Society

Former Novartis Greece Director, Two Doctors Acquitted of Bribery Charges

November 4, 2018

THESSALONIKI – In a blow to the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s claim that the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis paid off 10 rival politicians and others, an Appeals Court found its former General Director for Greece, Costas Frouzis, and two state health system doctors innocent of charges of bribery and bribe-taking.

The state-run news agency ANA-MPA said the doctors, a couple working at the National Health System in the northern city of Serres, were accused of receiving 8,000 euros ($9,111) from Novartis to prescribe that company’s drugs over otherspharmaceuticals company Novartis in 2011-12 to prescribe the company’s drugs.

The doctors, who were not identified, said the money was instead payment for their writing scientific articles on diabetes and hypertension and that the payment was declared in their tax returns and not hidden.

The prosecutor had acknowledged the couple had prescribed Novartis drugs in only 6-7 percent of their cases without explaining why then they were being charged for doing otherwise, other than to say an investigation by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) was inadequate in calling for their acquittal.

Frouzis said he was not involved in any bribing and that his company, which has a 25 percent share in diabetes and hypertension medications sold to Greece, didn’t need to resort to bribing to get doctors to prescribe its drugs.

The three had also been acquitted by a Misdemeanors Court in the city of Serres, but a prosecutor had appealed against the lower court’s decision.

The initial case also included three Novartis managers who were foreign nationals but a lower court threw out the case because the court summonses had not been translated in their native languages, leaving them unable to understand the charges.

Frouzis was a prominent figure in what SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said was the biggest scandal in the country’s history, with the case based on the secret testimony of three whistleblowers who aren’t being named.

Tsipras said rivals of his took money from Novartis but no evidence has been presented beyond the word of the secret witnesses that Frouzis bribed those cited by the government, including former Prime Minister and previous New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, the head of the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras – who is engaged in a long-running political battle with SYRIZA, and former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Some of the accused are suing in return and Frouzis still hasn’t been called to testify again the people named by SYRIZA as being guilty without having evidence presented against them or taken to trial.

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