Novartis probe reportedly 'stumbles' onto former ministers, PMs

Monday, 05 February 2018 21:25

Prosecutors investigating alleged kickbacks by the Greek subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Novartis have transferred a voluminous case file to a relevant supreme court prosecutor, given that eight former ministers and two past prime ministers are reportedly included in the ongoing judicial probe.

Immunity laws in the country mandate a different judicial route for investigations, and, of course, prosecution, for such current and previous high-ranking elected office-holders, i.e. prime ministers, ministers, deputy ministers etc.

As such, the case file has already been turned over the justice ministry, with Parliament the next stop, under Greece's laws regarding ministers' liability.

According to reports that were leaked on Monday evening, the investigation focuses on the period between 2006 and early 2015, ending with the assumption of a SYRIZA-led coalition government.

In move certain to generate sharp opposition criticism of alleged "interference", government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Monday confirmed that he was briefed over the investigation during a visit to the supreme court prosecutor's office, a briefing he said was prompted by press reports in the Sunday editions of a handful of newspapers a day earlier.

The so-called "Novartis-gate" case has received extensive coverage by a handful of pro-government mass media.

In a later reaction, former prime minister Antonis Samaras, who was premier up until January 2015, issued a scathing response, referring to what he called a "new slander by (current PM Alexis) Mr. Tsipras against me. And one, in fact, based on falsified testimony by anonymous witnesses. Because slander is a weapon of cowards ..."

He also said he will seek legal recourse.