Turkish prosecutor opens investigation into Novartis: media

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[April 01, 2016]  ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Ankara Chief Prosecutor has launched an investigation into the Turkish unit of Swiss drugmaker Novartis, local media reported on Friday, after allegations it benefited from bribery.

The prosecutor's investigation was prompted by allegations reported in the press this week, Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper said on its website without giving a source.

Calls to both the chief prosecutor's press office and the main switchboard were not answered.

Novartis has said the allegations against it were "unfounded" and based on a past complaint. The company had no further immediate comment, a spokesman said on Friday.

Reuters reported this week that an anonymous whistleblower accused the company of paying bribes through a consulting firm to secure an estimated $85 million in business advantages.

Turkey's health ministry has opened a separate investigation into the allegations. A senior ministry official, Eyup Gumus, said on Friday that no problems have been seen in that initial investigation.

The anonymous whistleblower said Novartis had paid a government relations consultant the equivalent of $290,000 plus costs during 2013 and 2014, before the Turkish Social Security Institution launched an investigation in 2015, leading the drugmaker to end the association.

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(Reporting by Ceyda Caglayan and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Clelia Oziel)

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