Thursday 12 December 2019

Ex-drug CEO Martin Shkreli refuses to answer questions in Congress appearance

Martin Shkreli refused to answer questions during his Congress hearing. (AP)
Martin Shkreli refused to answer questions during his Congress hearing. (AP)

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli has refused to answer questions at a US congressional hearing over severe price hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired.

Mr Shkreli appeared to smirk throughout his hour-long appearance, and moments afterwards, insulting tweets began to appear under his official account calling Congress members "imbeciles".

Mr Shkreli, widely scorned for hiking the price of a long-established and potentially lifesaving drug by more than 5,000%, exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he went before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Four times the brash entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager - who has been unapologetic about the price hikes, told the committee: "On the advice of counsel I invoke my Fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question."

Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, told the 32-year-old to wipe the smirk off his face.

"I call this money blood money ... coming out of the pockets of hard working Americans," he said, as Mr Shkreli sat through the lecture.

"I know you are smiling, but I am very serious, sir," Mr Cummings said. "I truly believe you can become a force of tremendous good. All I ask is that you reflect on it. No, I don't ask, I beg that you reflect on it."

Mr Shkreli was dismissed less than an hour into the hearing, but not before Chairman Jason Chaffetz shouted down a request by Mr Shkreli's lawyer to speak. Congress members instead took turns denouncing his conduct and attitude.

Minutes after Mr Shkreli walked out of the room, a tweet on his official Twitter account said: "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."

Mr Cummings, attributing the tweets to Mr Shkreli, said: "There are very real issues for people with compromised immune systems."

Mr Shkreli faces separate criminal charges of securities fraud in connection with another drug company he owned

Congress had summoned him to answer for the decision that made him infamous: raising the price for Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection.

Mr Shkreli, who pleaded not guilty after his arrest in December in New York, has been out on 5 million US dollars bail. He walked into the packed hearing room well before the session began and met the cameras.

PA Media

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