Novartis Won't Be Investigated by Swiss Over Payments to Cohen

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s top prosecutor won’t open criminal proceedings against Novartis AG over payments the Basel-based drugmaker made to Michael Cohen, the troubled lawyer for Donald Trump.

After an in-depth analysis, the Office of the Attorney-General decided there was “insufficient suspicion to justify opening criminal proceedings” it said in a statement on Wednesday. The Swiss prosecutors said they consulted with the Basel Prosecutor’s Office in Novartis’s hometown, and failed to find sufficient grounds to proceed with charges into the allegations of bribery of a foreign public official or private individual.

Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan said last month that the drugmaker “made a mistake” in signing up lawyer Michael Cohen to give the company insight on Trump’s health-care plans. The payments have come under unusual scrutiny because because they were made into a Delaware shell company through which Cohen paid hush money to a porn star who said she had an affair with Trump.

Novartis said it quickly determined that Cohen was unable to provide the services it anticipated, but was contractually obligated to keep paying the firm through February 2018. That same month, Narasimhan took over from Jimenez as CEO.

The payments by Novartis and other companies sparked a political firestorm in the U.S. because Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. The payments were made to Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC, a unit of Renova, an investment vehicle for Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, who is among those sanctioned by the U.S. to punish Russia for its suspected election interference and aggression in Ukraine and Crimea.

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