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By Nektaria Stamouli
This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (February 23, 2018).
ATHENS -- Greece's parliament will investigate whether senior political leaders took bribes from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG to fix drug prices and boost its sales to public hospitals.
Early Thursday, lawmakers voted to investigate 10 current and previous politicians on allegations including bribery and money laundering. These include two former prime ministers, Antonis Samaras and Panagiotis Pikrammenos, as well as the European Union's current migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and Greece's central bank governor, Yannis Stournaras.
All the officials have denied wrongdoing. Opposition parties accused the government of stoking the scandal for political gain.
Earlier this month, Greek anticorruption prosecutors alleged that Novartis officials paid tens of millions of euros to politicians and 4,500 doctors in order to fix the price of its drugs at artificially high prices and build a dominant position in the country's health market.
Under Greek law, parliament is the only institution that can investigate politicians and lift their immunity if it finds evidence of criminal activity. Prosecutors referred their investigation to parliament this month.
A special parliamentary committee will take up the inquiry. That committee may ultimately decide to return the investigation to the judiciary.
According to the prosecutors, the activity occurred between 2006 and 2015, covering the period during which Greece was bailed out and was living under tight scrutiny by its international creditors. The country has slashed health-care spending to fix its finances.
Novartis has said that if any wrongdoing is found it will take "fast and decisive action and do everything possible to prevent future misconduct." The company has been cooperating with Greek authorities and is conducting its own internal probe.
Over the past three years, Novartis has been caught up in corruption probes in several countries.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 23, 2018 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)
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