Wikileaks: Vote Buying For Slovak Pharmacy Chains
Among the many cables published recently on Wikileaks was one in which the US Embassy in Bratislava points to MP buying in a push to reform the health service when Rudolf Zajac was health minister back in 2004.
Financial group Penta was suspected of paying various independent MPs around EUR 66,000 according to a report of the US Embassy from April 2005, in an effort to get them to vote for a set of six reform laws. The cable was supposedly based on information from a trustworthy source with links to Penta.
Charge d’affairs at the time, Scott Thayer, reported that there were speculations of vote buying, with the finger pointed at Penta as it had indirect control over three of the five health insurers in the country. The financial group was also poised to take over 100 pharmacies and some hospitals.
A key element in the reforms was that instead of pharmacies being owned solely by qualified individuals, they could now suddenly be owned by legal entities. This then allowed the creation of lucrative pharmacy chains, which have been the source of friction this month in Slovakia as private pharmacists have been petitioning for the law to be turned back. The cable from Wikileaks claims that the plan was also to push small competitor pharmacies out of the market.