Mired in bribery probe, Novartis Greece office vandalized by anarchist group

Members of an anarchist group smashed windows and hurled red paint at Novartis' office in Athens, as the drugmaker faces kickback probe in the country. (Image: Pixabay)

In an unexpected twist to the bribery probe Novartis faces in Greece, the Swiss pharma’s Athens headquarters was vandalized by anarchists.

About 30 people launched the assault at around 5 a.m. Sunday local time, smashed windows and splashed red paint at the building, according to local police report cited by Reuters, which said such attacks have become common as the country emerges from its economic crisis. 

Anarchist group Rouvikonas claimed responsibility afterward and pointed the raid as related to the recent bribery probe around the drugmaker.

In a statement, Novartis said it is concerned by the attack and condemns any use of violence. “We call on the Greek authorities to denounce this incident and take all necessary steps to help Novartis protect its people,” said the company.

The company, which has been vilified but not yet charged as the matter has played out publicly, has said that it continues “to cooperate with requests from local and foreign authorities" but hasn't received an indictment. 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."

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

The vandalism followed the Greek parliament’s decision Thursday to set up a special committee to investigate 10 politicians’ role in the alleged kickback scandal. Those politicians have denied allegations which claimed they received bribes in millions of euros in exchange for favors to Novartis.

They accused the incumbent government of running a witch-hunt before the 2019 elections and have filed lawsuits against the still unidentified witnesses believed to be Novartis employees.

Novartis has previously also been involved in similar bribery accusations in the U.S., China and South Korea. This time around, it has promised that if any wrongdoing is found, it will take “fast and decisive action and do everything possible to prevent future misconduct.”