One of three protected witnesses in a controversial – an ultimately futile – investigation into allegations of kickbacks and bribes by Novartis’ subsidiary in Greece was reportedly arrested on charges of defrauding unsuspecting businesspeople.
Greek Police (EL.AS) announced the arrests of three suspects on Tuesday, as part of a probe into allegations of fraud.
One of the suspects, according to initial reports is «Maximos Sarafis», the alias used by one of the three protected witnesses. Authorities said the suspects presented themselves as executives of a foreign credit institution, promising fast-track loans in return for «filing fees» and «commissions» that required upfront payment. No loans were ever forthcoming.
Police said at least 10 business people were duped, with nearly a half million euros collected by the alleged perpetrators.
The explosive Novartis judicial probe in Greece, led by the former head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, Eleni Touloupaki, ended in a fiasco after years of investigation, mostly over a period coinciding with a leftist SYRIZA government in office (2015-19).
Claims by the trio of protected witnesses involved hefty bribes and kickbacks funneled by Novartis Greece to 10 top office-holders in the country, including former prime ministers, health ministers and others, all rivals of then ruling SYRIZA.
A Parliament majority at one point authorized the continued investigation of the 10 politicians, lifting their immunity, as most were members of Parliament.
However, Touloupaki and her associate prosecutors failed to file even one indictment, a development that would have required corroborating evidence be presented. All 10 cases were eventually shelved.
Conversely, a US Justice Department settlement with Novartis in June 2020 resulted in a fine against the Swiss multinational of 345 million USD to resolve a “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” case, as the US federal law is called.
In a statement issued at the time, the US Attorney’s office in New Jersey noted, among others, that “…The resolutions arise out of a Novartis Greece scheme to bribe employees of state-owned and state-controlled hospitals and clinics in Greece and to falsely record improper payments relating to the corrupt scheme and similar conduct…”
However, although the high-profile focus of the judicial investigation in Greece almost exclusively revolved around the claims against the 10 politicians, no evidence was ever gathered against such officials at state-owned and controlled hospitals and clinics.
The “Novartis scandal”, according to the then SYRIZA government, or “Novartis conspiracy”, according to the opposition, sparked an intense political firestorm in the country before the July 2019 general election.
One of the results of the subsequent fallout is that the former head of the anti-corruption office now finds herself as the defendant, on misdemeanor charges, in trial related to the botched Novartis probe.
Reports: F4 fighter plane believed crashed off western Greece
Search efforts are underway to locate the two aviators who were flying the plane
Fitch upgrades Greece to BB+; outlook stable
The ratings firm also listed the outlook as “stable”
Economist political editor Peet: Risk of Turkey moving towards dictatorship
Peet spoke in the wake of a particularly critical cover story focusing on Turkey in the recent Economist issue
Annual consumption of petroleum products in Greece mostly unchanged in 2021 from 2020
Heating oil drops
Rising costs of construction materials threaten Greek real estate sector
The development threatens to dampen or even freeze the construction of all types of new buildings
No confidence vote against Mitsotakis gov’t fails to pass; majority bloc unscathed
Voting against the motion were deputies of center-right New Democracy
Bank of Greece: €3.486 billion increase in funding flow in December
Increase in loans to businesses but not to individuals
In 2023, direct flights from the USA will bring more than 1 billion euros revenues to Greece
So far, 56 flights per week have already been announced from the US and Canada
Morgan Stanley: Continuation of the “rally” of Greek banks
What it predicts for profitability and dividends
Greek PM Mitsotakis’ meeting with the executive director of the ESM
During the meeting special reference was made to the high growth rates, resilience and upward dynamics of the Greek economy