ENGLISH Former Novartis Greece chief Frouzis, 2 physicians acquitted of bribery charges

5 November 2018
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Two public health system physicians and the former vice-president and general director of Novartis’ subsidiary in Greece, Costas Frouzis, were acquitted of bribery charges – passive and active, respectively – on Friday by a three-justice appeals court in Thessaloniki.

Earlier, a prosecutor in the case recommended an acquittal for the three defendants, saying each physician’s prescriptions of products produced by the company never exceed 6 or 7 percent of their total, while charging that a financial crimes’ unit investigation contained only indications and not proof.

“Three people cannot be convicted based on indications,” he said.

The two physicians, a husband and wife who worked in regional health centers in the northern Serres prefecture, appeared to have collected 8,000 euros from Novartis in 2011 and 2012.

The pair strenuously denied the charge and countered that the remuneration involved the composition of scientific articles on diabetes mellitus and hypertension, with the income also legally declared to the tax bureau.

Frouzis also denied the charges in his testimony, saying the company retains a 25-percent market share in Greece regarding pharmaceuticals for the two specific ailments, “and has no need to bribe doctors”.

Frouzis’ name figures prominently in an investigation by an Athens anti-corruption prosecutor, with three “protected/anonymous” witnesses claiming the former chief of Novartis Greece bribed a bevy of former health ministers and prime ministers in the country before 2015 – claims vilified by the political opposition as being influenced and exploited by the current poll-trailing SYRIZA-led government.

Although the trio of anonymous witnesses have cited Frouzis’ name, he has still not been called to testify in the high-profile case, according to reports.

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