Greece has been rocked by allegations of bribery on a massive scale with former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras accused of earning 40 million euros in bribes in exchange for buying Novartis products, and for purchasing the swine flu vaccine in 2009.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration,… was named along with a handful of former ministers, including two past prime ministers, for having taken a reported €50m in bribes from the Swiss drug giant.
Witness testimony also alleges that Avramopolous and other senior health officials received hefty bribes from Novartis in return for buying large amounts of the firm’s vaccinations against the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009.
“Two decisions were adopted by the health minister at the time, D. Avramopoulos, to cover the need to buy vaccines … D. Avramopoulos received for this reason a big amount of money, for sure more than 200,000 [euros],” one of the court documents states.
Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is among the drug manufacturers accused of giving kickbacks to politicians and doctors in an effort to keep the price of its drugs artificially high while increasing its access to the Greek market.
This may have cost the debt-ridden Mediterranean state around 23 billion euro ($28 billion) overall at a time of deep financial crisis, according to prosecutors. The damage specifically involving Novartis is three billion euros ($3.6 billion).
On Monday, prosecutors delivered part of the case to parliament because the investigation implicated 10 politicians by name. In addition to Avramopoulos, it lists former Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, former caretaker PM Panagiotis Pikrammenos , and former finance minister and vice-president Evangelos Venizelos.
Her predecessor, Eleni Raikou, quit last March, claiming in a letter to the Supreme Court that she had been “targeted” by “unofficial power centers” over the investigation into Novartis. According to Jens Bastien, an independent economic analyst in Greece, Raikou’s departure was testament to the influence the country’s top brass hold over institutions that are supposed to be independent.
“Eleni Raikou did not receive any political support and claimed that she was being ‘targeted’ while carrying out her investigation,” Bastien said. “The fact that the Greek judicial system loses people like Raikou is serious.”