More Greek firms eye low-tax Switzerland

More Greek firms could follow Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and move their headquarters to Switzerland or elsewhere to avoid higher taxes at home, Swiss media reports said on Sunday.

More Greek firms eye low-tax Switzerland
Photo: Flickr/Wrote

Several heads of Greek companies had made enquiries about the advantages of moving, Sonntag reported, quoting Greek-Swiss Chamber of Commerce president Nikolaos Aggelidakis.

Among the firms that had made enquiries was one listed on the Greek stock exchange and active in the food sector, but Aggelidakis declined to reveal its name.

Quoting a source close to the Greek stock market, the report said the firm was Perseus Specialty Food products, one of the biggest Greek fish feed producers, with annual turnover of 41.5 million euros ($53.7 million).

According to Greek media quoted by the report, other Greek firms moving abroad include top dairy producer the Fage group, which wants to move headquarters to Luxembourg for fiscal reasons.

Another Swiss newspaper, NZZ, reported that other Greek businesses, including metals company Mytilinaios and distribution firm Jumbos, also want to leave Greece.

Coca-Cola Hellenic decided to set up its HQ in the central canton of Zug, whose fiscal system is the most favourable throughout Switzerland for foreign firms.

The firm is Coca-Cola's second biggest bottler worldwide and serves 28 countries, from Russia to Nigeria.

The Swiss fiscal policy has infuriated Brussels, as the European Union sees businesses fleeing EU countries to the tax haven of Switzerland.

According to Swiss laws, foreign firms which set up in the country pay €51 billions ($66 billion) less in taxes per year than Swiss companies, said a Swiss television report.

Setting an ultimatum, Brussels has given Switzerland until December 13th, when a European summit is held, to present a programme aimed at dismantling such privileges which are judged discriminatory and anti-competitive.

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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.