Officials in Greek Novartis probe fire back at protected witnesses: report

Two former Greek officials this week filed a complaints against witnesses in the Novartis bribery scandal. (Pixabay)

Just as Greek lawmakers kick off discussions about the country's Novartis bribery probe and the alleged role of former officials, some of those politicians have filed criminal lawsuits against the protected, unidentified witnesses who have named them, according to the Associated Press. 

The Greek parliament is set to discuss today on whether to launch a probe into 10 former officials who are alleged to have taken bribes, according to multiple reports. The overpricing and bribery scandal has cost Greece an estimated $28.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, during a period when the country's economy suffered, eventually leading to a bailout and austerity programs. 

Earlier this month, newswire AFP reported that 10 former government officials were ensnared in the closely watched case, citing a source within the country's judicial system. The officials have denied wrongdoing, and many have rebuffed the allegations as slander. 

In response to the allegations, former Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras and current EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos filed criminal suits last week against protected witnesses who allege they were involved in the scandal, the Associated Press reports.

And on Tuesday, former deputy prime minister Evangelos Venizelos and former health minister Adonis Georgiadis filed their own criminal suits, the news service reports. 

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." 

“If any wrongdoing is found we will take fast and decisive action and do everything possible to prevent future misconduct," he added. 

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras stepped in to oversee the situation last week and asked for a special parliamentary committee to investigate the charges.

Meanwhile, observers in Greece told Bloomberg that the situation threatens to undermine public trust in government as elections near in 2019 and as Greece exits its bailout program this August. The news service reports that the case, along with economic instability and immigration, could fuel far-right movements and a vitriolic election.