Vienna (dpa) – The judge in the bribery process against the Austrian right-wing populist Heinz-Christian Strache found clear words: “There is no justification for the payment of a member who later becomes vice-chancellor , and there must be no justification, “she justified her judgment.
In the case concerning the purchase of the law, the 52-year-old man was sentenced to 15 months probation by the Vienna District Court for corruption. It was another low blow in the once successful career of the former FPÖ boss.
Strache speaks of bad judgment
“Today we received a first instance judgment which on the one hand deeply surprised me, but also shocked me”, replied Strache. He spoke of an error in judgment. His defense lawyer announced his appeal.
The judge considered it proved that Strache had helped the friend who owned a private clinic to change the law in a beneficial way. In return, donations were reportedly made to the FPÖ, of which Strache was then president. However, Strache had not personally enriched himself, she stressed. She acquitted him of a charge related to an invitation to the island of Corfu because he had not accepted it.
Strache’s friend also condemned
Strache’s friend was sentenced to twelve months probation for corruption. The two defendants denied the allegations in court until the end. The judgments are not yet final.
The court case has its origins in the so-called Ibiza video which was released in May 2019. In secretly filmed recordings, Strache had spoken on the Spanish holiday island of questionable methods of party funding and political influence. Since then, prosecutors have investigated the existence of corruption in the environment of the coalition government between the FPÖ and the conservative ÖVP (2017-2019).
“Which federal law would be important to you”
Prosecutors in the Strache lawsuit relied, among other things, on numerous chat messages. “Which federal law would be important to you,” Strache once asked his entrepreneur friend about how best to help him.
The proceedings focused on the entrepreneur’s efforts to access the financing fund of the state’s private hospitals with his beauty clinic in Vienna. Inclusion in the fund facilitates compensation for medical services. The man donated a total of 12,000 euros in 2016 and 2017 to the FPÖ, which was still in opposition at the time. The clinic eventually gained access to the fund after Strache became vice-chancellor. “There was no doubt about a connection, not only in terms of time but also thematically,” the judge said.
Strache’s lawyer couldn’t convince the court that his client wanted to fight the unfair treatment of all private clinics instead of just helping his friend. The populist had built his meteoric career not only on the fight against immigration, but also against corruption and injustice. Strache has led the FPÖ since 2005 and led it to a result of almost 26% in the 2017 elections. After the Ibiza video, not only his time as vice-chancellor but also as party leader was ended. The coalition between the FPÖ and the ÖVP of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has broken down. While Kurz now reigns with the Greens, Strache heads a small breakaway FPÖ party called Team HC Strache, which barely appears in public.
The Ibiza scandal is far from settled
With Friday’s judgment, however, the Ibiza scandal is far from over. Strache is also a suspect in a complex investigation into possible corruption around gaming companies, as confirmed by his lawyer. In addition, Kurz, ÖVP Finance Minister Gernot Blümel and other figures linked to the ÖVP came into the crosshairs of the economic prosecution and corruption after Ibiza. They denied all the allegations. No charges have been laid to date.