ATHENS – Greece’s major opposition New Democracy said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is driving a plot to discredit the Conservatives by interfering in an investigation into charges the Swiss drug firm Novartis paid bribes in Greece to receive preferential treatment.
The government, plummeting in polls after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises, said it was given evidence that senior politicians from the previous New Democracy-led administration were involved in the bribery case to to fix prices and increase market access.
Ten high-ranking officials were allegedly linked to the scandal that evolved from 2006-15, implicating mostly unnamed government officials, health administrators and doctors with SYRIZA’s Deputy Justice Minister saying it was “the biggest scandal since the creation of the modern Greek state,” and had driven up state governments for medicines.
Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, from SYRIZA, and Papangelopoulos briefed Tsipras on the case and Parliament – controlled by SYRIZA and its junior coalition partner the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) will have to decide whether to lift immunity for 10 politicians said to be involved, including former Premier and then-New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who angrily said he was being slandered by a cowardly government.
New Democracy said the government had violated the Constitution by briefing the Prime Minister on the content of an ongoing investigation and tying politics to law and a legal probe outside the Premier’s jurisdiction.
The opposition party also noted that government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos went to the Supreme Court, where he asked for an update on the investigation which reportedly brought in the name of Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, a SYRIZA target for undercutting rosy government estimates the economy is recovery and who has also complained he’s being hounded for political reasons and had no part in the Novartis case.
Kontonis said after meeting Tsipras that, “When we are talking about scandals that involve medicine, the moral implications are enormous,” without mentioning he legally was not supposed to tell Tsipras details of the case.
“At a time of financial crisis and recession, when it’s difficult for our poorer fellow citizens to find the drugs they need for their health, there were certain drugmakers who in an illegal and provocative way, worked to provide drugs at inflated prices and used state officials in the National Health Service to make sure certain drugs available where they should not have been,” Kontonis said, without mentioning SYRIZA has cut health benefits.
New Democracy said Kontonis and Tzanakopoulos’ involvement was not legal and that the government is trying to put together a false case against the Conservatives who have risen in the polls.
“All these that obviously show an unacceptable attempt by the government to meddle in the investigation process, appear entirely ‘by chance’ to happen one day following a protest by hundreds of thousands of Greeks over the unacceptable handling of the (FYROM name issue) by the government,” the party said in its announcement.
SYRIZA and Tsipras have continually complained that the courts – which are supposed to be independent – are not backing the Leftists policies as critics said the government is trying to obstruct justice and interfere with the judiciary unlawfully.