NewsWorld"Ibizagate": former Austrian far-right leader convicted of corruption

“Ibizagate”: former Austrian far-right leader convicted of corruption

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The scandal of the “Ibizagate”, which caused the fall of the Austrian vice-chancellor two years ago resurfaced with the trial of Heinz-Christian Strache. Justice sentenced him on Friday to fifteen months suspended prison sentence for corruption.

The former leader of the Austrian far-right, who fell out of favor two years ago, was sentenced on Friday August 27 by the Vienna court to a light fifteen-month suspended prison sentence in a corruption case linked to the scandal of the Ibizagate.

Heinz-Christian Strache is suspected of having worked to favor one of his relatives in exchange for donations to his party and a holiday in the sun.

“The chronology of events leaves no room for doubt,” Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt said after the trial. “The benefits received are irrefutable”, had argued a little earlier the prosecutor Bernhard Weratschnig, under the attentive gaze of the defendant of 52 years, dark suit and burgundy tie.

During the debates, which took place over four days in early July before resuming this week, Heinz-Christian Strache systematically denied any wrongdoing. “I have never received any favors in my life, I acted out of conviction”, he hammered.

10 000 euros paid to the FPÖ

The former president of the powerful Freedom Party (FPÖ) [extrême droite] and vice-chancellor saw his fate change in May 2019 when a video shot two years earlier on the Spanish island of Ibiza leaked to the press. Filmed on a hidden camera, he is seen offering public contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch, in exchange for electoral support.

The sequence has the effect of a blast, causing the collapse of the coalition between the FPÖ and the conservatives of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and early elections in the Alpine state.

On the judicial front, the episode leads to the launch of all-out investigations against several influential officials. It is in this context that Heinz-Christian Strache’s cell phone is seized and that investigators discover compromising texts.

According to the prosecution, he intervened to change the law so that a private clinic is attached to social security. The legislation will eventually be changed once the far right has come to power, allowing the establishment to benefit from public funds. In return, the head of this clinic, Walter Grubmüller would have invited the politician to Greece and paid 10,000 euros to his party. He for his part received a twelve-month suspended prison sentence.

This is “a serious offense, not a trifle”, according to the prosecution. During the trial, a second donation to the FPÖ, in the amount of 2,000 euros, surfaced.

Heinz-Christian Strache denies having traveled to Corfu after becoming vice-chancellor and assures that he was not aware in advance of the payment of such sums.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz worried

Since his sensational resignation in the wake of the scandal, other revelations have come to overwhelm the former number 2 in the government.

Heinz-Christian Strache is thus accused of having embezzled more than half a million euros from the funds of the FPÖ to finance his luxurious lifestyle, during his fourteen years at the head of the party. Claiming to be the victim of a defamation campaign, he attempted, without success, a return to municipal elections in Vienna in October 2020.

Long remained above the fray, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has now forged an alliance with the Greens, for his part was caught by the courts in May.

The ambitious “Wunderkind” is the target of an investigation into suspicion of false testimony before a parliamentary commission of inquiry into facts of corruption, set up in the wake of the Ibizagate. The young leader, who is 35 years old this Friday, rejected any misconduct and refused to resign, even on charges.

With AFP

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