By Angelos Anastasiou
Police are investigating claims by a pharmaceutical sales representative against EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos that he had her carry several vials of Botox and a similar drug, Dysport, from Greece for use and sale in his dermatology private practice without the required licence, spokesman Andreas Angelides said on Thursday.
The allegations of illegal drug imports were carried on the front page of daily Politis on Thursday.
“Police are investigating a claim by a woman, who said she illegally carried to Cyprus, on behalf of Mr Sizopoulos, quantities of pharmaceutical substances he uses in his profession as a dermatologist,” Angelides said.
The police spokesman said investigations are at a very early stage, with only a few statements taken, while Sizopoulos has not yet been called in for one.
The offences attributed to Sizopoulos, which include unlicensed circulation and wholesale distribution of drugs, could incur a fine of €85,000 and imprisonment for five years.
According to Politis, police pointed out to the woman, who had been Sizopoulos’s associate until last May, that her claims could inculpate her in the case under investigation, but she insisted on her story.
She said that, on several occasions, she travelled to Greece and bought quantities of Botox and Dysport – used in cosmetic facial treatments – which she then brought back to Cyprus in her luggage.
It is as yet unknown how she procured the quantities in Greece.
According to drug prices published by the appropriate governmental pharmaceutical authorities, Dysport’s retail price in Cyprus was €339.70 last year, significantly higher than €265.64 in Greece. Botox is not licensed for importing and sale in Cyprus.
Speaking on state radio, Sizopoulos said he was not aware of the investigation and denied the claims, attributing them to a plot aiming to silence him due to political rivalries, which is doomed to failure.
“I have used Botox in my private practice – I am, in fact, the first dermatologist to have used it in Cyprus, since 1999,” he said.
“It is not forbidden to move officially licensed drugs from EU countries to Cyprus. But I ask you this: have all the colleagues who come from Greece and bring their own drugs to perform plastic surgery faced criminal investigation?”
Later on in the day, he replaced his flat denial with a carefully qualified statement.
“I have never, myself or through a proxy, imported a pharmaceutical product into Cyprus for resale,” he told the state TV channel’s news show.
“There are two things here: importing and reselling, for which a licence is required; and importing for use in your private practice. I have done the latter, and there is EU legislation on this. No one can take away your right to import any product that is freely available in the common market for use in your private practice.”
Despite repeatedly claiming throughout the day that he had no information on the case other than what he read in the press, Sizopoulos denied ever having been an ‘associate’ with the unnamed woman who made the claims against him.
“She was not my associate,” he said.
“She tried to become my associate but it didn’t happen, for a number of reasons.”
He referred to several other cases that are not being properly investigated, such as the alleged transfer of sums out of Cyprus during the ‘closed period’ before the March 2013 haircut, and added that he, “too”, has “evidence on many others” but explained neither who is trying to silence him, nor whom he has dirt on.
“The voice that speaks will not be silenced – I state it openly: if some seek conflict and war, they will get it,” Sizopoulos warned.
“I do not give in and I do not back down, and they should know this full well by now. What they must understand is that I, too, have a lot of evidence on many others.”
Pressed to answer why he would keep such “evidence” close to the chest, he said “all in due time”.
In line with Sizopoulos’ interpretation of the report as a political attack, he had EDEK issue a statement demanding that the Attorney General conclude the sarcastically-named “botox scandal” immediately.
“We will not keep quiet until investigations have been completed and the truth shines on this matter,” the party said.
By Angelos Anastasiou