ATHENS – The long-running saga of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis allegedly bribing politicians and paying doctors to prescribe its medications brought convictions only against 15 physicians.
Four former executives and a former politician were cleared, as were 10 other political figures who had been accused by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of the “biggest scandal in modern Greek history.”
That turned out to be false and they were found to have no involvement although the accused included former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Bank of Greece Governor Yiannis Stouranaras and politicians from New Democracy and PASOK.
The investigation into alleged kickbacks began in 2006 and lasted until 2015, when SYRIZA was elected and began using the case, its rivals said, to go on a political witchhunt without any proof ever being cited.
That kicked off another probe but the Council of Misdemeanor Courts acquitted Novartis’ former Vice-President in Greece, Konstantinos Frouzis and Nikos Maniadakis, a former Health Ministry adviser.
But the court said that was because the statute of limitations had expired in the case against them and three other Novartis executives also cleared because the investigation took so long, common in Greece.
It wasn’t explained why the 15 doctors, who weren’t named, were convicted of passive bribery and money laundering for taking money in return for prescribing Novartis drugs if the executives who paid them weren’t.
It wasn’t said if the doctors, who weren’t identified, would now be allowed to keep practicing or face penalties for the conviction, now what or when their sentencing would be.
In June 2020, the US Department of Justice said Novartis Hellas, the company’s Greek unit, would pay a $225 million criminal penalty in a deal that wouldn’t prosecute doctors, hospitals and clinics prescribing its drugs.
US authorities said Novartis Hellas conspired from 2012-15 2015 to bribe employees of state-owned hospitals and clinics in Greece to buy more Novartis-branded drugs, but didn’t mention politicians as did SYRIZA.