ÖVP corruption affair

Article

October 18, 2021

The ÖVP corruption affair became public on October 6, 2021 after the Austrian Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office carried out house searches in the Federal Chancellery, the Ministry of Finance and the headquarters of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). The next day, the 104-page “Search and Seizure Order” from the public prosecutor's office named all ten suspects, including Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, came into circulation. The core allegations are the offenses of breach of trust and bribery or corruptibility. Kurz and people from his environment are said to have leaked fake surveys to the daily newspaper Austria in 2017 and charged the Ministry of Finance with the costs by means of bogus invoices. The fake poll, which was very bad for the ÖVP, with a fictitious approval rating of only 18%, contributed to the resignation of the then party leader Reinhold Mitterlehner and to Kurz's free choice as party leader. The Austrian media group reported "obviously serious misunderstandings" on the part of the public prosecutor in a broadcast. Sebastian Kurz denied any criminal behavior and initially rejected his resignation, which the opposition unanimously demanded. On October 9, 2021, Kurz announced his resignation from the office of Federal Chancellor. He changes to the function of the club chairman in parliament. On October 11, Alexander Schallenberg, who was previously Foreign Minister, became Federal Chancellor.

background

As a result of the investigation into the so-called Ibiza affair, several cell phones were confiscated, including that of Thomas Schmid, then Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance, and later head of the federal holding company ÖBAG. The evaluation of the chat processes led to the clarification of the background to Schmid's ÖBAG order and ultimately also to an investigation against Sebastian Kurz for false evidence (§ 288 StGB) before the Ibiza committee of inquiry of the parliament. The penalty for this offense is up to three years in prison. Further evaluation of previous chat logs led to the criminal investigation in the present case.

Project Ballhausplatz

From 2016, Kurz - then Foreign Minister - is said to have sought his rise to the top of the party, new elections and then the Chancellery. A strategy paper entitled Project Ballhausplatz (based on the official seat of the Austrian Federal Chancellor) was drawn up. According to the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office (WKStA), at that time - Reinhold Mitterlehner was still ÖVP boss - he was unable to access party finances. The alleged falsification of a poll should also remain hidden from most of his party friends. The only purpose of the survey was to dismantle the party leader and Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner. The fake survey - "VP 18, SP 26 and FP 35 according to leg scraper" - was commented by Sebastian Kurz with: "Thank you! Good survey, good survey :) "

Criminal charges, accused

The suspicion is of breach of trust (§ 153 StGB) and bribery (§ 307 StGB) or corruption (§ 304). According to the investigating authority, the accused are said to have used “budgetary funds from the Ministry of Finance to finance exclusively party-politically motivated, sometimes manipulated surveys by an opinion research company in the interests of a political party and its top functionary (s)” between 2016 and 2018. The investigators assume that the damage will exceed 300,000 euros. This results in a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment in the case of breach of trust, and up to fifteen years in the case of public officials. The allegations concern ten people: Sebastian Kurz, then Foreign Minister Wolfgang Fellner, editor of the Austrian newspaper Helmuth Fellner, CFO of the newspaper Austria, brother of

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