U.S. lawyers for confidential and anonymous Greek whistleblowers today demanded that the Greek government cease and desist all efforts to learn the identities of their clients. The whistleblowers reported serious allegations of bribery by the international pharmaceutical company Novartis to U.S. law enforcement authorities. The Greek government has initiated proceedings to strip the whistleblowers of their confidentiality.
In a letter to Iosif Tsalagandis, the President of Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece and Gianluca Esposito, the Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), attorneys from the whistleblower rights law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto requested that the Greek prosecutors office immediately stop all efforts to identify Greek citizens who disclosed evidence of potential bribery to U.S. authorities.
The attorneys also requested that the Council of Europe intervene in the case and prevent the Greek government from learning the whistleblowers’ identities and fully investigate this matter.
“The best protection against retaliation is confidentiality. If the Greek government and the corporations accused of paying bribes do not know who the whistleblowers are, they are powerless to retaliate. Maintaining strict confidentiality is the cornerstone of any effective anti-corruption law. Without strict confidentiality, the safety of the whistleblowers cannot be ensured,” said whistleblower lawyer Stephen M. Kohn.
The letter stated as follow:
We hereby request that [the Greek prosecutors] immediately cease and desist from any attempt to learn the identities of Greek citizens who have voluntarily provided information to the U.S. authorities. We also request that you withdraw any request to U.S. authorities to expose the identity of these whistleblowers.
The letter also included a “formal complaint” submitted to the Council of Europe seeking “all sanctions available” under “international anti-corruption conventions approved by Greece” based on the attempts by the Greek authorities to undermine the confidentiality of the Novartis whistleblowers. These international conventions include the Council of Europe’s Convention on Corruption, among others.
Kohn, who is representing the confidential whistleblowers in the United States, also stated: “We call upon the Greek government to stop all efforts to learn the identities of Greek citizens who courageously and voluntarily risked their jobs and safety to disclose credible information that bribes were paid by an international pharmaceutical company to the Greek government.”
“Foreign bribery not only undermines the rule of law but results in higher medical costs to the people of Greece. Bribery has no place in international relations and the Greek government should be fully supportive of citizens who report violations to international law enforcement agencies. It is unacceptable and a clear violation of law for the Greek government to attempt to strip whistleblowers of the legal protections they need to ensure that corrupt officials and corporations are held accountable,” Kohn added.
Read the letter: Request for Relief and Formal Complaint Before the Council of Europe