Greek lawmakers launch probe into 10 officials accused of taking Novartis bribes

After more than a year and no shortage of drama, the Novartis bribery scandal in Greece is entering a new phase with a governmental investigation into 10 accused politicians. 

Greece's parliament voted after 19 hours of debate to set up a committee to oversee the probe, Reuters reported. But there was intense back and forth during the discussion, with the accused saying the allegations are intended to sully them ahead of next year's elections, according to the news service. 

Even still, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the situation was among the "biggest scandals in modern Greek history," as quoted by Reuters, and that the allegations can't be ignored. 

Ten former and current government officials are accused of taking bribes to help Novartis boost sales; they have all denied the allegations. Prosecutors are also looking into Novartis' role in the situation, Reuters reported.

Novartis has said it continues “to cooperate with requests from local and foreign authorities" and that it hasn't received an indictment. Last week, a spokesperson said the drugmaker is "determined to fully understand the situation and accept responsibility for any actions that fell below our high standards of ethical business conduct."

Hitting back at the accusations, two former officials last week filed criminal lawsuits against unidentified witnesses, according to the Associated Press. Two more politicians took that route on Tuesday, the news service reported.

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The witnesses are protected from prosecution, according to Reuters.

Along the way during the investigation, one prosecutor has resigned—citing pressure she's faced in the case—and a Novartis executive reportedly made a suicide threat early last year around the same time authorities raided a company office and disclosed the probe. Last April, a justice official said on a radio program that "thousands" of people were likely implicated.