Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis on Wednesday revealed that three "protected witnesses", whose testimony over the past few months alleged the involvement of two former prime ministers and eight one-time ministers in the Novartis kickbacks and price-fixing affair, are former executives of the Swiss multinational's subsidiary in Greece.
The statement by the controversial and outspoken leftist lawmaker immediate generated a firestorm of criticism by the opposition, given that such judicial probes are confidential, while the separation of the powers under the Greek constitution is clear. Main opposition New Democracy party, among others, called on the witnesses to provide testimony "without hoods".
"Testimonies comprise proof. The witnesses are (former) executives of the company that started to 'sing' ... (they are) executives that were nabbed with caught with wealth that is unexplained, and they started to 'sing' ... not that they are choir boy, but they started this story," was the way Polakis, a surgeon by training and former mayor on the island of Crete, explained his knowledge of the case during a television appearance.
In reply to charges that the entire case has been manufactured, he claimed that "Novartis, just as many pharmaceutical companies, have robbed the planet blind, and this sleaze is now coming to the forefront."
Asked how he is privy to details in the case file, which has already been turned over to Parliament, Polakis said "I'm a doctor, and I know about these things before I became a minister.... Novartis' pharmaceuticals overcame other companies' drugs in an unfair manner," he opined.
Meanwhile, other press reports on Wednesday claimed that the former head of Novartis Hellas, the multinational's subsidiary in Greece, has not been subpoenaed to testify but has been slapped with a travel ban.