Tsipras calls on lawmakers to back inquiry into Novartis as the ‘only honest way’

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on lawmakers late on Wednesday night to back a government proposal to form a parliamentary committee to investigate whether 10 prominent politicians were involved in an alleged bribery scandal perpetrated by Swiss drugmaker Novartis.

“I call on you today, ladies and gentlemen, to do the only fair and honest way. To vote in accordance with the regulation and the Constitution, to set up a preliminary investigation committee,” he said.

“I want to say at the outset that I fully respect their inalienable right to defend themselves and also the presumption of innocence that applies to everyone until proven otherwise by judges and not by us.”

However, he continued, although almost all parties have agreed on the need for a preliminary inquiry, one wonders from the speeches heard in parliament, whether there is a scandal or not.

“Has there been a scandalous waste in the health sector in Greece for years, yes or no? Has there been a systematic overpricing of pharmaceutical products and materials, yes or no?” he asked, adding that another question is whether Novartis intervened systematically in order to promote its products in the market.

He referred to earlier speeches by New Democracy (ND) MP Marios Salmas and other former ND and PASOK ministers who said that there is indeed a Novartis scandal.

“For this scandal of waste, mismanagement and huge loss for the state, is there a political responsibility? I heard a lot of people today speak of a political conspiracy, however i didn’t hear any of you having the nerve to deny outright the existence of a scandal.”

He then berated the leader of the main opposition for not admitting the political responsibility for the years of mismanagement.

“Mr. Mitsotakis, but you had an opportunity today, on behalf of your party, which is under attack and quite reasonably you are defending, to rise above the situation. You had the opportunity to assume, on behalf of your party that governed these years at least the political responsibility,” he said.

“Not only did you not do that, but instead you have fully adopted the childish and divisive rhetoric about a conspiracy and political persecution,” he added.

Tsipras cited late PASOK prime minister Andreas Papandreou and former ND prime minister Kostas Karamanlis who both accepted political responsibility for the infamous “Koskotas” scandal in the 1980s and the “Vatopedi” scandal respectively.

“He [Karamanlis] didn’t sue justice, or his political adversaries,” he said.

Instead, he continued, those politicians allegedly involved have “unleashed an unprecedented assault of intimidation and fear and a fierce interference in the work of prosecutors and judges,” he said.

Tsipras said his government’s electoral mandate in 2015 was to administer justice and doc everything it can to bring to light the responsibilities of the old political system for Greece’s collapse.