Reports: One of 3 anonymous witnesses in Novartis investigation prevented from travelling abroad; charged in case

2 January 2019
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A former Greek health ministry adviser was prevented from leaving the country on Sunday evening after anti-corruption prosecutors cited evidence of his involvement in possible bribe-taking, the latest twist in an ongoing judicial investigation centering on pricing practices in the country by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. The probe only focuses on the period before 2015.

What makes the development even more prominent is the fact that the man is apparently one of three anonymous “star witnesses” cited in an indictment brought to parliament by an anti-corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki. The trio of anonymous witnesses provided statements claiming they had hearsay knowledge or believed that a bevy of top politicians – all more-or-less political rivals of the current leftist-rightist Tsipras government – took kickbacks from Novartis’ Greek subsidiary in order to fix drug prices or offer preferential contracts to the latter.

The indictment, which was ultimately handed back to the judiciary by a relevant Parliament committee, included former prime ministers, the current EU Commissioner from Greece and past health ministers.

The trio of unnamed witnesses named Kostantinos Frouzis, Novartis Greece’s former executive vice-president, as overseeing the kickbacks and bribes. Strangely enough, the relevant prosecutor called numerous witnesses to provide statements on the specific allegations, but not Frouzis.

The latter faces charges in the case as a defendant.

The one-time health ministry adviser who was prevented from travelling abroad was reportedly headed to Madrid with his wife. He was charged with passive bribery under a law covering public sector embezzlement and his passport was taken away.

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