Austrian justice is once again targeting the conservative ÖVP party and its leader, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Following the investigations into plug-ins and alleged illegal financing derived from the scandal of the Ibiza case, the Prosecutor’s Office carried out searches on Wednesday at the ÖVP headquarters in Vienna and at various offices of the Foreign Ministry. According to Austrian media, the investigations affect at least one spokesman for the head of the Government and several advisers. The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office has not yet ruled on the case, but plans to issue a statement throughout the day.
Investigators Analyze Alleged Advertising Funding and Pro-Government and ÖVP Polls in an Austrian Newspaper, Newspapers Say The press and The standard. The Austrian People’s Party has reacted to the searches with a statement in which it accuses the investigators of having the objective of “massively harming the ÖVP and Sebastian Kurz” and of “fabricating reproaches” against them. In the note, the representative of the general secretary of the party, Gaby Schwarz, confirms the records and says that there was already another judicial intervention in 2013 that found “nothing incriminating.”
The Österreich media group, to which the information about the investigation points, has issued through the APA agency a statement in which it categorically denies any agreement with the Ministry of Finance for the “payment of surveys through advertisements.”
The investigations, in principle, are thus not related to the summaries that were opened after the revelations of the former ultra vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ) in a recording made with a hidden camera in Ibiza in 2017, in which he offered public contracts before a false Russian oligarch to whom he also suggested irregular donations to the party.
However, the records and possible new accusations represent another blow to the image of the majority party and the Kurz Executive, which is already under investigation on suspicion of false testimony before the parliamentary commission that analyzed the revelations of the Ibiza case. Kurz, accompanied by his lawyer, testified before a judge in early September and denied the accusation, focusing on his possible intervention to place a close adviser at the head of the state company Öbag. Several media published part of the statement, which left the image of a foreign minister tense at the questions of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, which he has accused of bias and botched investigations that end in nothing.
The conservative leader, who governs in coalition with Los Verdes, is not the only leader of the party and the Executive affected by the investigations unleashed by the Ibiza case, which led him in May 2019 to break the pact he had with the extreme right and call early elections. Last March, the Prosecutor’s Office ordered the search of the home of the Finance Minister, Gernot Blümel, of the circle closest to Kurz, on suspicion of donations to the ÖVP in exchange for an intermediation for a gaming and casino company that the investigated and the signature deny.
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The public ministry has opened several cases for possible bribes or illegal donations and has already obtained a first sentence of 15 months against the former leader ultra Strache for promoting a legal modification that affected a private clinic in exchange for money for his party. Prosecutors have also investigated other former senior officials and party members.