Greek lawmakers hand off probe of politicians accused of taking Novartis bribes: report

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Greek lawmakers decided not to move forward with their Novartis bribery probe, instead handing the issue to a special prosecutor. (Pixabay)

Less than two months into their probe of Novartis bribery allegations in Greece, lawmakers there decided to hand off the investigation to a special prosecutor. 

In a case of 10 politicians accused of taking €50 million in bribes between 2010 and 2015, a parliamentary committee decided it wasn't able to handle the probe, the Financial Times reports. Going forward, a special prosecutor will take the lead.

Already, the prosecutor has requested access to the accused politicans' bank accounts, the International New York Times previously reported.

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In response to the allegations, the politicians have denied wrongdoing and have said the case is brought by political opponents in an effort to discredit them before upcoming elections. For its part, Novartis has pledged to “accept responsibility” and act “decisively” if the allegations prove true. 

RELATED: Greek prosecutor ratchets up inquiries in Novartis bribery probe: report

The case cropped up early last year, when a Novartis manager in the country reportedly made suicide threats in an Athens hotel. Officials in the country raided a company office around the same time and disclosed the probe in January 2017.  

As the case continues to play out in Greece, Novartis recently faced new allegations of bribery in China. In a letter that circulated online earlier this month, a person who claimed to be a former sales rep said the company fabricated medical events to bribe doctors in exchange for prescriptions. The company's China unit said it will take "serious actions without hesitation" if wrongdoing is found.  In 2016, the company paid $25 million to U.S. authorities to settle bribery allegations in China.

RELATED: Novartis, still embroiled in Greek probe, faces kickback allegation in China—again

In the U.S., the company has even more legal drama on the horizon as doctors and sales reps prepare to testify in a long-running bribery case. The government alleges the company was "essentially buying scripts" through thousands of fake educational events, but Novartis says the evidence isn't specific enough to support the allegations.

Aside from those issues, officials in South Korea last year ordered the company to pay a $50 million fine and temporarily suspended coverage on two drugs, again over bribery suspicions. That followed a Japanese scandal in 2014 and 2015 over failing to report side effects for leukemia meds Tasigna and Gleevec.

RELATED: Novartis, slammed by Korean scandal, tweaks its ethics, compliance policies

Amid all of the ongoing allegations, investigations and legal proceedings, the company recently named Shannon Klinger its chief ethics, risk and compliance officer. She'll join the company's executive committee and report directly to CEO Vas Narasimhan. She previously was the company's chief compliance and ethics officer, a role that wasn't on the executive committee.