Swiss prosecutors won’t pursue Novartis over payments to Trump lawyer

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has decided not to bring proceedings in response to a criminal complaint filed against Novartis over payments made to a company owned by Donald Trump's personal lawyer.

Swiss prosecutors won’t pursue Novartis over payments to Trump lawyer
Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney, in April. Photo: AFP

The complaint was filed after it emerged the Novartis subsidiary Novartis Investments S.A.R.L. paid $100,000 a month for 12 months to Essential Consultants, which is owned and controlled by Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen.

After the news broke of the Novartis deal, US media speculated the Swiss firm had been trying to gain access to the US president in what was essentially a form of covert lobbying.

Read also: Novartis dumps general counsel over payments to Trump's lawyer

In a May 9th statement, Novartis acknowledged the payments but denied any attempt to buy political influence.

Now, after a detailed examination, the Swiss OAG has decided “there was neither sufficient suspicion that the payments were made to a foreign public official nor that there was any link between the payments and any official act.”

“The OAG also concluded that there was insufficient suspicion of any bribery of private individuals,” said the office in a statement emailed to The Local.

For the above reasons, the OAG has decided not to open criminal proceedings, the statement concluded.

The revelation of payments by Novartis to the firm controlled by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was bad news for the Swiss pharmaceutical company.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan later called the payments “a mistake” in an internal memo, and US media outlets reported Narasimhan went on to conduct a conference call with 5,000 company managers in which he said the firm needed to re-examine its lobbying practices.

Company Group General Counsel and executive committee member Felix R. Ehrat was also forced out after the payments went public.


Switzerland’s Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis said Friday it had signed an initial agreement to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, as countries scramble to boost supplies.

Switzerland's Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine
Novartis will help manufacture Pfizer vaccine. Photo by AFP.

The rare act of cooperation — in an industry usually marked by cut-throat competition — comes after French pharma group Sanofi announced earlier this week that it would also team up with rivals Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce 125 million doses of their jab.

The two-dose vaccine, which is based on mRNA technology, has been shown to be around 95 percent effective and has been approved for use by the World Health Organization and in some 50 countries.

But it is in limited supply as nations around the world race to immunise their populations against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 2.2 million people in just over a year.

Novartis said in a statement that it would use its sterilised manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

Under the agreement, the company said it would “take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world”.

Once a final agreement is reached, Novartis said it expected to begin production in the second quarter of the year, with initial shipment of finished product expected in the third quarter.

Steffen Lang, Head of Novartis Technical Operations, stressed that the company was “committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world”.

“We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements,” he said in the statement.

Novartis said it was already in “advanced discussions” with a number of other companies about with other production tasks, including of mRNA, therapeutic protein and raw material production for Covid vaccines and therapeutics.