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Prosecutors raid offices of Novartis in Athens over alleged bribery scandal

Corruption prosecutors raided the offices of Swiss drug maker Novartis in Athens a few days ago as part of an ongoing investigation over bribery allegations, sources told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday.

According to the same sources, the prosecutors requested a thorough search to gather electronic data and documents relating to the probe which was launched in Greece in mid-December. The investigation was ordered by the Supreme Court’s prosecution after a file with media reports on bribery allegations was submitted by Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis.

The reports claimed Novartis bribed doctors and public officials to boost prescriptions and company sales.

Greek authorities have also requested the assistance of U.S. authorities which, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) first launched an investigation into the drug maker two years ago. According to the reports, two executives of Novartis in Greece had submitted to U.S. authorities hundreds of documents which prove payments to private doctors and doctors who work in the public healthcare system (more than 4,000 in total), in an effort to promote the company’s products.

The prosecution requested that U.S. authorities share any data pertaining to the Greek part of the scandal.

State broadcaster ERT TV reported on Wednesday morning that agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrived in Athens in order to investigate Novartis together with Greek authorities. More than 178 people have been questioned on alleged illegal discounts offered by Novartis from 2006 to 2014 to some 4,000 public and private doctors in order to prescribe certain drugs and boost company sales.

The Greek investigation was launched a couple of weeks ago following press reports that managers from Novartis Hellas  had given testimonies to US authorities who investigate Novartis. On New Year’s day a manager attempted suicide in a hotel in Athens. The suicide was prevented by the police.

In a written request to Parliament for more official information, independent MP Nikos Nikolopoulos estimated the loss for the Greek state at “80 billion euros” and noted that also former health ministers should be investigated.

Some Greek media estimate that the Greek state lost “120 billion euros over the last thirty years due to overcharging by pharma companies” and claims five health ministers should be investigated.

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