Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday more-or-less confirmed previous reports by proposing to his ruling party's Parliamentary group the establishment of a committee of inquiry into the burgeoning Novartis investigation in the country.
"There's no chance that when a scandal is exposed that the cassette alleging a political persecution won't be played. And we the same today, the same toxic, unethical and undermining (charges)," he told deputies of his radical leftist SYRIZA party.
Tsipras dismissed shrill criticism by the opposition and a portion of the local media that his government has dredged up and even orchestrated a judicial "witch hunt" against a bevy of top political opponents. A voluminous case file probing alleged kickbacks and price-fixing by Swiss multinational Novartis' subsidiary in Greece - in the wake of a massive FBI investigation touching on several countries - has be transferred by an anti-corruption prosecutor to Parliament.
He also said his government will not "cower" under the sustained attack by the opposition and "vested interests", as he said, although the independent justice system is responsible for the investigation. He also said his government will seek reimbursement of over-charging by Novartis, claiming 23 billion euros has been over-paid by the Greek state for pharmaceuticals before 2009, while also opining that statutes of limitations have not been exceeded in this case.
The development comes after the alleged involvement of 10 former and current lawmakers, which under Greek law means that jurisdiction is shifted from the regular justice system to Parliament's domain.
Tsipras also attacked main opposition New Democracy party and his political rival, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The latter charged that a campaign to blackmail (protected) witnesses and prosecutors is under way..
Repeated press leaks last week stated that testimony by one of three protected witnesses is the basis for the alleged involvement. The same press reports - mostly by Greek media critical of the leftist-rightist coalition government - claim that the FBI's investigation does not include the names of Greek politicians, sans one, rather the US agency's probe pinpointed numerous instances of perks given by the pharmaceutical company to physicians.
The entire case emerged on the spotlight a day after a massive rally was held in central Athens over the resuscitated fYRoM "name issue", a turnout judged as thoroughly negative the opinion poll-trailing Tsipras government.