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Ten former ministers named in Novartis case

Tten former ministers are on a list of suspects for accepting bribes bribery from the Novartis pharmaceuticals company to be investigated by the Greek Parliament. 

The list was forwarded from the Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The case involves the Novartis pharmaceuticals company and alleged criminal responsibilities of former ministers, including former PM Antonis Samaras, for the 2006-2015 period, for bribery and money laundering. As is law in Greece, any criminal file involving elected officials (ie parliamentarians) cannot be dealt with by courts, but must first be addressed by a special parliamentary committee.

The case file that was sent to Parliament on Monday beyond the ten politicians, who served as ministers in competent posts related to decisions on the pricing of pharmaceuticals, also includes many other non-political figures. 

Among those being investigaed is current Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, because of his tenure as health minister in 2015.

However, the law on Liability of Ministers foresees that there is statute oflimitations for elected political officials, which in this investigation means that for practical purposes the ten politicians under investigation can not be tried for bribery charges because the time has lapsed, and therefore the prosecutor is to investigate the ministers for money laundering, a charge for which there is no statute of limitations.

What has angered the opposition and members of the judiciary is that the government wasmade aware of the contents of the prosecution file, something which it first denied and then tried to sidestep. Reporters covering the justice beat saw government spokesman Mr Tzannakopoulos arrive at the supreme court prosecutor's office, a very irregular move for the separation and independence of the judiciary.

What stoked the ire of the opposition was that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis and Alternate Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos on Monday to discuss developments in the Novartis bribery investigation, after prosecutors reportedly found that former politicians were involved in the case. The question posed is: What were they discussing concerning a file that supposedly they were barred from seeing?