High-profile ex-minister Loverdos to govt regarding Novartis probe: 'I will squash this conspiracy'

Friday, 19 April 2019 23:15
UPD:23:16
Eurokinissi/ΜΠΟΝΗΣ ΧΡΗΣΤΟΣ
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Greek Parliament deputies, as expected, on Friday voted by a wide margin to lift the immunity status for former ministers Andreas Loverdos and Marios Salmas, from the PASOK and New Democracy parties, respectively.

Both men had asked fellow deputies to lift their immunity so that they can answer prosecutors' questions -- Loverdos for the fizzled out Novartis kickbacks investigation, and Salmas on charges of allowing over-priced arthroscopic procedures during his ministerial "watch".

Loverdos, a veteran lawmaker and minister, is the only one of 10 top past and present office-holders for which an anti-corruption prosecutor requested his questioning in a "suspect's capacity", the only result so far in a years-long probe of allegations of kickbacks and price-fixing by Novartis pharmaceutical's Greek subsidiary.

A probe against four of the 10 has been shelved, with another four or five cases expected to follow this same route this month.

The prosecutor's initial findings, included in a voluminous case file, was first sent to Parliament and duly sent back when without a Parliamentary committee inquiry being established. "Indications" of wrongdoing are based on the on-again, off-again testimony - mostly hearsay - of four anonymous witnesses, the last of whom surfaced a few weeks ago.

At one point, government ministers had repeatedly referred to the "biggest scandal since the establishment of the modern Greek state".

The opposition has angrily pointed to a "judicial conspiracy" cooked up by the poll-trailing Tsipras government to engage in scandal-mongering before this year's general election, without the real prospect of any court charge ever being filed and adjudicated in a courtroom.  

Loverdos' address from Parliament's podium was indicative, as he said he's determined to "squash this conspiracy".

"You are liars, slanderers, you're common criminals ... I will uncover the instigators (of the conspiracy) and those who executed this plot, both the ones wearing hoods (the anonymous witnesses) and those without," he said.

Conversely, the slim government-backing majority in Parliament voted against lifting the Parliament immunity of two of the more outspoken current and ex-Cabinet members, Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis and former DM Panos Kammenos.

Both men were slapped with a felony libel suit by political rivals, but allocated legal shelter under controversial Article 86 providing immunity from prosecution while exercising duties connected with their ministerial status.

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