'Novartis-gate' emerges on nat'l limelight after fYRoM 'name issue'; opposition points to judicial manipulation

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 13:57

Media attention and political clashes were immediately diverted on Monday from a mass rally in favor of a hard-line stance vis-a-vis the resurgent fYRoM "name issue" to the reassignment of a voluminous case file over alleged kickbacks by Novartis' Greek subsidiary to Parliament, complete with a same-day "unofficial" briefing of the government spokesman by a supreme court prosecutor and sidewalk press comments by the justice ministry's leadership.

Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis exited Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office in the early evening on Monday and referred to a "bigger scandal" than the Siemens kickbacks affair, while main opposition New Democracy (ND) party charged that the increasingly beleaguered leftist-rightist coalition government is engaging in an "outrageous intervention in the justice system." After Kontonis, the alternate justice minister referred to the "biggest scandal since the creation" of the modern Greek state (1830).

The case, which has been under prosecutors' scrutiny for more than two years, ostensibly deals with possible criminal offenses (bribery and breach of faith) of former prime ministers and ministers over the 2006 to 2015 period.

According to reports, however, the indictment does not refer to specific offenses against named individuals, only that possible infractions occurred during the tenure of prime ministers and ministers, especially health ministers.

Asked about the presence at the supreme court prosecutor's office on Monday of spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, the justice minister told the state-run broadcaster that the action was legal and merely aimed at receiving a "briefing" over the indictment.

Greek prosecutors' probe is reportedly linked with a FBI investigation in the United States into the pharmaceutical multinational's commercial practices.

The opposition vociferously charged that the Tsipras government is merely trying to divert attention from the fYRoM "name issue" rallies.