For over one year the Novartis affair has fueled constant political tensions and it will be a central issue in the forthcoming general election, which is to be held by October at latest.
To Vima on Sunday reported yesterday that Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki (photo) has told the Judicial Council that she expects the case to be wrapped up within the next six months.
The newspaper reported that there are five main steps to be taken before the investigation is completed:
1. The evidence regarding former PM Antonis Samaras, the former health minister and current European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, former finance minister and current Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, former health minister Adonis Georgiadis, and former health minister Marios Salmas will be assessed to determine possible criminal actions committed while in office. Unconfirmed reports indicate that most if not all of these cases will be closed for lack of evidence.
2. Parliament will decide on 19 April whether to agree to a judicial request that former health minister and Movement for Change MP Andreas Loverdos’ parliamentary immunity be lifted so that that he can be examined by prosectors as a suspect regarding bribe-taking. If his immunity is lifted then Touloupaki will decide whether to file charges or close the case.
3. Members of the health ministry’s committee for the evaluation of medicines will be examined in order to determine whether they made decisions which illegally benefited Novartis and approved the over-pricing of Novartis’ drugs without following the legally mandated procedures. They face the charge of breach of trust if it is determined that through a series of actions and/or omissions they harmed the state financially.
4. A representative of a company in the services sector which is alleged to have been used by Novartis for the laundering of money that was used to bribe state functionaries will be examined.
5. Doctors who are alleged to have received kickbacks in various ways will be examined.
Sources familiar with the case say that each phase will be handled separately and the decision on whether to file charges or close individual cases will be made before moving on to the next phase.
Touloupaki is also still investigating the cases of former Novartis Hellas vice-president Konstantinos Frouzis (who is supposed to have paid the alleged bribes) and Nikos Maniadakis, who served as an advisor to three health ministers and who was initially a protected witness before the judicial decision to treat him as a suspect.
As the time to file charges approaches, judicial sources say the case may be handed over to a special prosecutor, as has been done in a number of major, high-profile cases in the past.