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Milan judge seizes 2.3 million euros from Novartis in fraud probe

MILAN (Reuters) - A Milan judge has seized 2.3 million euros ($2.7 million) from pharmaceutical multinational Novartis NOVS.S as part of a fraud investigation, a document seen by Reuters shows.

FILE PHOTO: The company's logo is seen at the new cell and gene therapy factory of Swiss drugmaker Novartis in Stein, Switzerland, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The money has been sequestered from the company’s Italian unit Novartis Farma SpA, suspected of selling medicines to hospitals at inflated prices as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain reimbursement funds from the regional government.

Novartis said in a statement it rejected the “groundless” accusations of the Milan prosecutors and had behaved with full transparency.

Finance police conducting the investigation say that nine private hospitals in Milan took part in the scheme between 2013 and 2018, hurting the finances of the Lombardy region around Italy’s financial capital.

According to the seizure decree, seen by Reuters, the hospitals were reimbursed in full by the region, omitting to declare that the real price they paid was lower thanks to credit notes issued to them by the pharmaceutical companies.

The San Donato group, the company that runs the hospitals, already paid 10.2 million euros in damages to the Lombardy authorities in December last year.

The group, contacted by Reuters, did not comment.

Novartis said it was not aware of the economic or accounting arrangements in place between the hospitals it sells pharmaceuticals to and the regional governments they deal with.

Mylan Italia, the Italian unit of multinational pharmaceutical group Mylan MYL.O, is also among the companies involved in the investigation, the document shows.

The company has filed a plea bargain proposal for a fine of 200,000 euros and a confiscation of 1.2 million euros, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The request has received a green light from the public prosecutor’s office and it will now be up to a judge to decide whether to accept it, the source added.

Mylan Italia declined immediate comment.

Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Gavin Jones and Mark Potter

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