Athens Digest 07.02.2018

• Pharma scandal suspects named in parliament

• I’ll sue Tsipras, says ex-PM Samaras

• Bond auction on hold amid turmoil

• Saudi arms probe to be reviewed by lawmakers


# Politicians implicated in the Novartis bribery investigation were named in parliament yesterday and allowed to read the results of the probe proposing their indictment. The action triggered another furious round of political confrontation.
Politicians from previous governments are accused of breach of duty as well as bribery and passive bribery from the Swiss drugmaker that has been involved in several high-profile corruption cases in other countries.
In Patras, the prime minister turned on political opponents, claiming they displayed hypocrisy. “Patriotism is the daily act of virtue, the condemnation in practice of corruption and greed,” Alexis Tsipras said. “There can be no patriotism based on bribes and corruption … Patriotism means honesty.”
The officials named yesterday are: Former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras, caretaker prime minister Panagiotis Pikramenos, five former ministers and alternate ministers of health: Dimitris Avramopoulos (currently the EU Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner), Andreas Loverdos, Marios Salmas, Andreas Lykourentzos, and Adonis Georgiadis, former welfare minister Giorgos Koutroumanis, and former ministers of finance Evangelos Venizelos and Yiannis Stournaras (the current governor of the Bank of Greece).
Parliament is reportedly expected to bring the case to an investigative committee that could order trial by a Special Court comprised of Supreme Court justices.

# Antonis Samaras, the former prime minister, insisted the Tsipras government had engineered the charges against him, and promised to file a lawsuit against Tsipas personally. “I will take this all the way,” he said outside parliament. “This is the most ruthless and the most ridiculous conspiracy I have ever seen.”
Politicians allowed to review the report said allegations included alleged cash deliveries to politicians’ homes, and that the kickbacks had totalled EUR50 million over nearly a decade.
Evangelos Venizelos said the allegations made against politicians had been provided by three Greek witnesses whose identities were protected, and not related to the Information received from the United States. He described the three as “fake witnesses participating in a political assassination”. Greece, he added “is no longer a country governed by the rule of law.”
All suspects strongly denied any involvement in the scandal. New Democracy’s deputy leader, Adonis Georgiadis, referring to the documents submitted in the parliament, described the case as “a farce” adding that report even appeared to implicate Greece’s bailout inspectors.

# Finance officials ordered the delay of a planned seven-year bond action that had been expected this week amid another day of global turmoil at stock exchanges. Monday’s heavy losses in U.S. stocks prompted debt management and Finance Ministry officials in Athens to call an emergency meeting and decide on the delay. Five banks have already been hired to manage the auction, the first of three issues expected before the bailout ends in August. The officials gave no indication of when the new date would be.

# In a second alleged corruption case, parliament yesterday received the case files concerning the proposed sale to Saudi Arabia of 300,000 anti-tank shells.
The files were forwarded by a Supreme Court prosecutor who had examined details of the planned sale of arms that critics claimed would have been used in the Gulf kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.
The government denies allegations that Defence Minister Panos Kammenos used an unauthorized broker to try and negotiate the sale of the shells from Greek military stockpiles.



On our radar: Name changes north of the border
The government in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has approved a proposal to rename country’s main airport and motorway, dropping the title of ‘Alexander the Great’ from both. The airport will be renamed as Skopje International Airport and the E-75 north-south road artery will officially be called the friendship motorway. The measure was agreed last month at a meeting between Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zoran Zaev of FYROM, and went ahead despite Sunday’s mass rally in Athens against a UN-backed name compromise between the two countries. Greece’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision in Skopje as a positive first step towards countering the events that have weighed on relations.
Separately, a poll of protesters in Athens at Sunday’s rally for Macedonia, found that 25 percent said a reason for their participation was to protest against the government. Most participants were middle aged or seniors and described the event as a peaceful demonstration that was not intended to topple the government.