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GREECE

Greece won’t use stolen Swiss data: report

Attempts by Greece to identify account holders in Switzerland ran into difficulty on Monday with the Greek finance ministry ruling out the use of stolen data and Swiss banks refusing to name lawmaker clients.

Greece won't use stolen Swiss data: report
Photo: Takis Kolokotronis

The ministry told parliament that Greece would not use Swiss bank data saved on CDs purchased by some German authorities as the material could be deemed illicit "industrial espionage", the state-run Athens News Agency said.

Last week, it was revealed that the Swiss Bankers Association rebuffed a request by Greek parliament in early 2012 for the identification of Greek lawmakers with accounts in Switzerland.

The association had replied in July that it had no policy of forwarding such requests, and that lawmakers should contact Swiss banks directly.

Struggling to avoid bankruptcy since 2010, Greece has been trying to clamp down on perennial tax evasion, but with limited success.

The Bank of Greece was reported in July to have information on 403 Greeks who had moved at least €100,000 (121,000 francs, $131,000) abroad in 2010, whilst claiming to have zero income.

And the finance ministry in February said Greeks had legally moved €16 billion abroad in the last two years.

On Monday, the finance ministry said that instead of giving information to Greece, Bern was taxing account holders and transferring a portion to Greece.

As a result, the ministry said Athens gained over €5.9 million from 2010 tax receipts and some €9.9 million for 2009.

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CORRUPTION

Greece investigates Swiss pharma Novartis over bribery claims

Greece's justice minister on Tuesday promised a "swift and thorough" investigation into suspected corruption by civil servants and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

Greece investigates Swiss pharma Novartis over bribery claims
The Novartis building in Basel. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Stavos Kontonis ordered an inquiry after “denunciations concerning bribes paid to functionaries by Novartis” appeared in the press, a ministerial statement said.
   
“The judicial investigation will be swift and thorough,” it added.
   
According to a judicial source, a preliminary investigation has been going on for two months and around 178 people in Greece have been questioned.
   
The source said anti-corruption prosecutors had visited Novartis's premises near Athens to gather evidence.
   
The case gained attention in recent days following a suicide attempt in Athens on Sunday, New Year's Day, by a Novartis manager.
   
That attempt was thwarted by police and according to the judicial source, the manager was one of those questioned over corruption.
   
For its part Novartis issued a statement saying it was “aware of the media reports about our business practices” in Greece and that it was seeking more information and was cooperating with the authorities.
   
“Novartis is committed to the highest standards of ethical business conduct and regulatory compliance in all aspects of its work and takes any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously,” the company said in the statement.
   
The judicial source also claimed American FBI agents were in Athens to help Greek authorities investigate Novartis.
   
The Swiss pharmaceutical giant was investigated by US authorities in 2014, accused of paying bribes in order to boost sales of some of its medicines, and was later fined $390 million by the US Justice Department.
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