WikiLeaks: independent MPs bought by Penta to pass health-care reform; Penta denies information

A cable sent by the United States Embassy in Bratislava that was published by the WikiLeaks portal recently indicates that corruption took place in the Slovak Parliament at a time when health-care reform was being approved in 2004, with financial group Penta suspected of bribing Independent MPs, newswire TASR reported.

A cable sent by the United States Embassy in Bratislava that was published by the WikiLeaks portal recently indicates that corruption took place in the Slovak Parliament at a time when health-care reform was being approved in 2004, with financial group Penta suspected of bribing Independent MPs, newswire TASR reported.

Confidential information dated April 21, 2005 analyses the reform pushed through by then health minister Rudolf Zajac. Six reform laws were passed in Parliament quite smoothly with the support of Independent MPs.

“There is speculation that these votes were bought” and “the source suspected of buying the votes was financial group Penta”, reads a report sent by the embassy.

The report also noted, according to TASR, that Penta's network of companies controlled three out of Slovakia's five health-insurance companies, was about to buy 100 pharmacy outlets and was attempting to snap up certain hospitals as well.

A reliable contact with ties to Penta told the embassy that the company paid Sk2 million, over €66,000, each for an undisclosed number of independent MPs' votes to assure that the reform legalizing the franchising of pharmacies passed, according to the wire, which was quoted by major Slovak dailies on September 5.

Financial group Penta on September 5 denied claims made by US diplomats as cited by WikiLeaks.

"We can't evaluate the authenticity of the report, but we view it as a mixture of nonsense, total lack of knowledge and ignorance of the facts," TASR was told by Penta spokesman Martin Danko.

The spokesman pointed to a few factual flaws in the cable: "The report mentions six reform laws in health care, but none of them dealt with the functioning of pharmacy networks via the form of franchise. Penta has never done business in the sphere of pharmacies in Slovakia [in the form of franchise].”

According to Danko, also the accusation that Penta wanted to take control of the pharmacy market in Slovakia by liquidating small pharmacies with its network has turned out to be nonsense, TASR reported.

“The Dr. Max [Penta controlled] chain currently runs around 80 pharmacies in the country, while there are around 1,800 pharmacies in total," said Danko.

Source: TASR, Sme

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