GENERAL ELECTRIC, MADE bold by the Italian authorities' Clean Hands probes, has won a suit against a Palermo hospital that it alleges illegally awarded a contract to a competitor. This is one of the first signs that the government's anticorruption campaign is taking hold in Italy, where unethical business practices have long been shrugged off.
At issue here is a CAT-scan device that GE sought to sell to Ospedale Cervello di Palermo in 1987 for about $940,000. Instead, the hospital bought the machine from Tecnologie Medicali, the Italian agent for New Elscint Technologies, an Israeli company. GE says it will seek to collect around $200,000 in damages from New Elscint, claiming that the Israeli machine didn't meet the hospital's specifications. The hospital denies that. Neither the agent nor New Elscint could be reached.
Bolstering GE's case is the three-year-old Clean Hands drive. Prosecutors are alleging there is wrongdoing at the hospital. Six of its doctors and two Tecnologie Medicali employees have been arrested on kickback charges; they couldn't be reached for comment. The alleged scheme: The CAT scan was never used, and patients went for tests to private clinics, which paid the doctors $375 per visit. Clean Hands has resulted in scores of corruption charges against judges, politicians, and business magnates.