Government acts, ministerial decisions that favoured Novartis, and entries in seized diaries, which correspond to payments to politicians mentioned by protected witnesses, are considered – according to the court files of the Novartis investigation – some of the most basic indications of kickbacks collected by the office of the Corruption Prosecutor.
With witness testimony being torn apart by all and sundry as unsubstantiated and weak, sources in the prosecutor’s office indicated that there are various types of weighty evidential material collected during the lengthy investigation.
Despite various claims, however, it appears that Greek authorities do not possess audiotaped and videotaped evidence from the FBI probe of the company, though those may be forwarded at a later date.
At the same time, the Corruption Prosecutor’s office – headed by Chief Prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki and staffed by assistant prosecutors Christos Tzouras and Stelios Manolis – is continuing its investigation into bribes paid to people who are not politicians, such as doctors and state functionaries, as well as into possible money laundering by politicians or others.
Novartis, which has said it is cooperating with Greek authorities, had in 2016 issued an anti-bribery policy report (see photo), at a time when its corporate practices were being probed by the US Justice Department.
Politicians off the hook, except for money-laundering
For the politicians, money laundering is the only charge that can be prosecuted, as receiving kickbacks and other crimes have been written off due to an especially brief statute of limitations for ministers.
Witnesses in the Greek witness protection programme are continuing to offer incriminating testimony against non-political figures who held significant posts or wielded influence in the health sector.
When the doctors come marching in
The probe into allegations that corrupt doctors – the largest group of kickback recipients – is reportedly approaching its conclusion, and is likely to lead to another huge public backlash.
Prosecutors are also hoping to glean crucial evidence from judicial assistance requests that they have submitted to Swiss and Cypriot authorities, for the opening of bank accounts of individuals implicated in the case.
The Swiss have been asked to provide the transactions log for Novartis’ corporate accounts in that country, both those that may have been feeder accounts for the payment of bribes, as well as those of companies that may have been used for laundering the kickback funds.
Protected witnesses not just about politicians
While politicians have viciously attacked protected witnesses who have accused them of receiving bribes, sometimes on the basis of hearsay or conjecture, these witnesses have offered crucial information about individuals and situations unrelated to politicians.
Moreover, Greek authorities say that those placed in the witness protection programme were subjected to psychometric tests by State Security in Athens in late October, about a week before their depositions began.
In a rebuke to politicians who claimed that the necessary authorisation from the Deputy Supreme Court Prosecutor was not obtained before witnesses were placed under protection, authorities clarified that the approval document was not relayed to parliament because it contained the real names of the protected witnesses.