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Greece to seek share of Novartis bribes payout

Greece will seek a share of the multi-million settlement to be paid by Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis in a landmark bribery case, the government spokesman said Friday.

Greek officials have estimated that the scheme cost the state some three billion euros ($3.4 billion) in inflated prices, and a judicial investigation into the possible involvement of senior politicians is ongoing.

“The government will examine every suitable way to secure compensation for the Greek state,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

“The damage caused by Novartis to the (Greek) state and citizens must be redressed,” he said.

Novartis on Thursday agreed to pay around $336 million (299 million euros) to settle charges connected to bribery schemes aimed at increasing sales of its pharmaceutical products, US authorities said.

Novartis Greece, a unit of the Swiss drug giant, admitted to financing travel of employees of state-owned hospitals to the US between 2012 and 2015 “as a means to bribe these officials,” the Justice Department said.

Novartis Greece also admitted that in 2009 and 2010 it funneled money to health care providers as part of an epidemiological study that was “used as a vehicle” for improper payments to increase sales of drugs, the agency said.

The case sparked a political storm in Greece after protected witnesses testified that a number of senior politicians were allegedly involved in helping Novartis build a commanding position in the Greek health market.

All those named, including Greek central banker Yannis Stournaras, former prime minister Antonis Samaras, and former EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos deny wrongdoing, and some have sued the witnesses for perjury and defamation.