Croatia’s anti-corruption office, USKOK, announced on Saturday that it has charged 364 people — 300 of whom are doctors or pharmacists — with taking bribes in exchange for prescribing certain drugs.
The major players in the case are the managers of the Farmal pharmaceutical company, all of whom have been charged with ‘abuse of power’ and ‘corruption’ for planning the scheme.
The Farmal executives are accused of bribing a network of doctors and pharmacists across Croatia to sell the company’s products, using money, gifts and paid trips as rewards.
The USKOK investigated Farmal in November 2012 using its anti-graft police in an operation code-named ‘Hippocratus.’
Croatia’s daily newspaper, Vecernji list, reported that the number of defendants would likely be reduced before proceedings begin, as some of the charges could be dropped and some suspects could plead guilty in exchange for reduced sentences.
This case is the largest that Croatia has handled in terms of the number indicted since becoming an independent nation in 1991. The country joined the European Union in July after showing that it would better tackle corruption and organized crime.
Last year, former prime minister, Ivo Sanader, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from both a Hungarian energy company and Austrian bank.
Despite these efforts, the country is still perceived as largely corrupt, according to a report by Transparency International. It ranked 57 out of 177 countries on perceived levels of corruption in TI’s latest report, and only 2 percent of the population felt that corruption had decreased over the previous two years.
Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.