BoG governor rejects all allegations against him in Novartis case, during Parliament speech

Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Yannis Stournaras rejected all allegations against him related to the Novartis case on Wednesday and said he is appearing in Greek Parliament to confirm the independence of the central bank and its governor and show respect for the country’s institutions.

Addressing Parliament during a debate on whether he, two former prime ministers and another seven former ministers should be investigated by a preliminary committee for liability in the Novartis alleged bribery and money laundering case, Stournaras urged Parliament to “assume (its) ethical and constitutional obligations” and investigate the charges thoroughly.

Stournaras’ speech focused on what he said was an organized campaign targeting his wife, businesswoman Lina Nicolopoulou, and himself over the Novartis case. (The central bank governor was finance minister from July 5, 2012 to June 10, 2014.)

Nicolopoulou, he said, a biologist with a 30-year career, owns a business providing among other things consultant and congress organizing services in the health sector. Novartis, one of her clients, “was responsible for only 2 pct of its turnover when I was minister. (…) All of this is included in our origins of wealth statements, which have been faultless all these years,” he said. The harassment she received from 2013 on, in order to harm him indirectly, he asserted, included press publications and an office raid by authorities that found no violation. The central bank governor also revealed that he had considered resigning in order to put a stop to his wife’s harrassment.

Speaking of drug overpricing, raised in the Novartis case, Stournaras said that pharmaceutical expenditures had actually dropped during his tenure as minister, in the government of Antonis Samaras and with Adonis Georgiadis as health minister. “Greece became one of the EU countries with the lowest pharmaceutical expenditures” at the time, especially after the introduction of electronic registration of prescriptions, he said.

He also rejected all allegations of so-called protected witnesses about signing decisions they claimed he did, asked Parliament to state which ones they are, and called on the body to describe clearly which regulations he allegedly violated.