Novartis probes Mexico social security bribe accusations

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Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Wednesday it was investigating bribery allegations over the sale of medicine to Mexico's social security institute, after a Mexican official was suspended.

"The company has started an investigation to determine the facts and it's not able to reply to rumors in the media," said a statement released in Mexico.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a Twitter message he had ordered an investigation into possible corruption by the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS).

The government suspended Cesar Mora, director of sales for IMSS, during the investigation into the deal.

Mexican TV network Televisa late Tuesday broadcast an alleged audio recording of an IMSS official negotiating the purchase of 80 million pesos (some 6.5 million dollars) worth of pharmaceuticals with a Novartis official, including a bribe worth five percent of the sale.

IMSS provides services to some 50 million Mexicans and is currently suffering a financial crisis, its director said last week.

© 2010 AFP

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