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Greek Politicians May Have Taken Bribes from Drug Maker, Prosecutors Say

The names of the 10 politicians were read out in Parliament on Tuesday when the report was submitted by Tasia Christodoulopoulou, the head of Parliament’s transparency committee and a lawmaker for the governing party, Syriza. All 10 have denied the allegations.

Under Greek law, politicians cannot be directly prosecuted by the judicial authorities. Cases must first be referred to Parliament, and lawmakers must revoke immunity and pave the way for indictments.

A government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, said on Friday that Mr. Tsipras would call on Monday for Parliament to create committee to investigate the claims. Should the committee find evidence of criminal activity, it could recommend that lawmakers lift the immunity of the politicians in question.

Deputy Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who is in charge of corruption issues, described the case as “the biggest scandal since the establishment of the Greek state,” referring to Greece’s emergence from the Ottoman occupation in the early 19th century.

The allegations were met with fury from members of the conservative New Democracy Party, of which Mr. Samaras and Mr. Avramopoulos are members. Mr. Samaras said the accusations amounted to the “most ruthless and ridiculous conspiracy ever” and said he would take legal action against Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Papangelopoulos.

Mr. Avramopoulos, who was Greece’s health minister from 2006 to 2009, said on Friday that the bribery claims were a “conspiracy,” having earlier called the case the product of “sick minds.” He said he would ask the Supreme Court to allow the identities of three protected witnesses to be revealed, referring to “a wretched slander involving fake witnesses in masks.”

The New Democracy leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused the government of “trying to slander an entire party,” prompting Mr. Tsipras’s office to counter that the opposition leader was “trying to intimidate witnesses, prosecutors, judges and ultimately the Greek justice system.”

Pavlos Sarakis, a lawyer representing the three witnesses, told Greek television on Thursday that his clients were top Novartis executives who appealed to the American authorities and provided information to the F.B.I. in 2016 and 2017.

Novartis has been the subject of several bribery and corruption inquiries — in China, South Korea, Turkey and the United States — in the past three years. It said in an emailed statement on Thursday that it was cooperating “with requests from local and foreign authorities.” The statement added that neither Novartis nor any of its “current associates” had received an indictment in connection with the Greek case.

Konstantinos Frouzis, a former vice president of Novartis in Greece, pressed on Wednesday for the prosecutors’ report to be made public, calling the case a “gross farce.” He surrendered his passport on Thursday to prosecutors.

The claims and counterclaims have created a furious political storm as the country prepares for general elections scheduled for next year, with New Democracy leading Mr. Tsipras’s leftist Syriza in opinion polls.

Source: NYT > World

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