Ex Prosecutor: Graft and Rule of Law Failures in Greece are an EU Problem

Published: 01 May 2022

Greek Prosecoutor TouloupakiGreece's former Chief anto-graft Prosecoutor, Eleni Touloupaki. (Photo: Courtesy of Eleni Touloupaki)


Greece’s former chief anti-corruption prosecutor who ended up being prosecuted after investigating the biggest corruption scandal in her country’s history told the European Parliament that the legal backlash against her and journalists who investigated the Novartis bribery case is not just a Greek problem.

“The message I conveyed was that the undistracted functioning of justice is something that concerns Europe,” Eleni Touloupaki told the OCCRP on Friday, a day after she spoke in a closed session of European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, widely known as LIBE.

“Every violation of the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers in a member state is a matter that concerns Europe because it’s a strike against Europe’s fundamental pillars.”

“Not just the prosecution of prosecutors and journalists by the very politicians who were investigated, but also the Novartis case itself is a matter that concerns Europe,” she said she told members of the Committee.

Touloupaki investigated the so-called Novartis scandal involving former prime ministers and ministers suspected of accepting tens of millions of euros from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant in order to secure high prices for its products. This affected the prices of medicines throughout the EU and even worldwide. The politicians deny wrongdoing.

In the United States, Novartis settled the accusations of having violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act out of court for US$347 million. The company admitted that it had made illegal payments to Greek politicians in order to sell its products at higher prices abroad.

“Drug prices were determined worldwide based on the prices decided by officials in Greece”, said Touloupaki.

Back in Greece, however, Touloupaki was removed from the case in 2019 when the Nea Demokratia party of Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis came to power. She was subsequently charged together with two of her colleagues with abuse of power and participation in a criminal organization that sought to implicate politicians from the ruling party in the case.

On Thursday, the news site Tvxs.gr reported that nobody from the European People’s Party (EPP), the faction the Greek Nea Demokratia is a member of, attended the session which hosted Touloupaki. This meant that the EPP “was either distancing itself from from Mitsotakis’s government or it wanted to avoid becoming identified with the practices applied,” the outlet said.

Greek justice minister Kostas Tsiaras who was invited to the committee’s session did not attend.

In January, prominent journalists Ioanna Papadakou and Kostas Vaxevanis, both accused of being part of the same criminal organization as Touloupaki, had to appear at the Supreme Court for questioning, which sparked a strong reaction from organizations defending journalists.

Although prosecutors found that large amounts of cash were deposited on their bank accounts, two members of Nea Demokratia who were implicated in the Novartis probe - including minister of health Adonis Georgiades - had their cases dropped.

On March 9, Touloupaki also addressed the European Parliament Anti-Corruption Committee just days before she was questioned by the Areios Pagos, Greece’s supreme court.