Prosecutors have demanded prison terms for former and current executives and employees of Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company, accused of providing billions of won in illegal kickbacks. It has been made in three years and three months since the trial of them began in September 2016.
In a decision hearing held at the Seoul Western District Court, the prosecution asked the court to hand down a one-and-a-half year prison term to Moon, a 50-year-old former CEO of Novartis Korea, who was put on trial for violating the Pharmacist Act.
Prosecutors also sought a prison term of between 10 months to one year for four former and incumbent executives indicted on the same charges, a one-year jail term suspended for two years for a retired former executive, and a fine of 45 million won on the Novartis corporation.
Korea Novartis was indicted on charges of providing 2.59 billion won worth of illegal rebates to doctors for five years from 2011 to 2016, according to prosecutors.
They were found to have provided kickbacks to medical doctors in the name of consultation sessions and advisory fees after executing advertising expenses in the name of product advertisements in medicine magazines and academic journals.
"It is hard to believe some defendants' claims that executives and employees did not know about rebates that are directly related to the company's existence and sales," the prosecution said. "Some of the defendants claim that it is a deviation of the staff below, but it seems impossible in the process and there is no reason for their subordinates to secretly obtain and execute the budget for advertising expenses."
Moon's side, however, flatly denied the allegations. Moon's lawyer denied the charges, saying, "Rebate is a general advertising tool that is implemented in many foreign countries, and 300,000 to 1 million won paid to them considering their doctor status is appropriate and that sponsorship of the association is a legitimate advertising tool set by the Pharmacist Act."
A lawyer for Novartis Korea also argued that the company will make its best efforts not to cause social uproar again by coming up with fundamental measures in the wake of the incident.