January 4, 2017 / 11:27 AM / in 7 months

Greek prosecutor raids Novartis Athens offices in bribery probe

The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is seen on its headquarters building in Basel, Switzerland October 27, 2015.Arnd Wiegmann

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek prosecutors have raided the Athens offices of Swiss drugmaker Novartis (NOVN.S) as part of a probe into bribery allegations, a court official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"In the framework of a judicial probe that was ordered in December, prosecutors raided the offices of Novartis over the last few days to search for possible bribery," said the official, who declining to be identified.

The investigation was ordered after the country's justice minister responded to media reports alleging bribes by Novartis to doctors and public officials.

"The prosecutors do not have any other evidence apart from the reports and have asked U.S. judicial authorities for assistance," the court official said.

In Switzerland, Novartis said it was aware of the reports from Greece and was seeking further information.

"We are fully cooperating with requests from local and foreign 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," a company statement said.

The Swiss drugmaker is fighting a widening lawsuit by U.S. prosecutors who allege its sales force ran a decade-long doctor kickback scheme involving sham events that led to overcharging the federal government. The drugmaker has disputed the allegations, which were filed in 2013.

In Turkey, an anonymous whistleblower has alleged the company paid bribes there through a consulting firm to secure business advantages worth an estimated $85 million.

Novartis has called those allegations unfounded and reiterated on Wednesday it had not been contacted by any Turkish authorities about the matter, which it considered closed.

In 2015 Novartis paid $390 million to settle U.S. allegations that it used kickbacks to specialty pharmacies to inappropriately push the sales of its drugs.

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Papadimas; additional reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Mark Potter

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