August 2, 2021

Austrian Chancellor investigated for “false testimony”

These are texts that Sebastian Kurz certainly never planned to release to the public. But since the beginning of spring, the publication at a steady pace in the Austrian media of exchanges of the 34-year-old conservative chancellor and his entourage has shaken the power of the hitherto talented as never before. Wunderkind (“Child prodigy”) of the Austrian right, which has ruled this central European country since 2017.

Based on their content, the Austrian Financial and Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office decided to open at the beginning of May a preliminary investigation for “false testimony” targeting Mr. Kurz. Prosecutors suspect him of having lied about the appointment of one of his relatives at the head of the holding company managing state holdings, ÖBAG, in 2019. While he had assured before a parliamentary committee that he was only “Informed” of the nomination process for this top-paying post in the country, the Chancellor’s messages showed that he had directly promised the candidate that “Anyway, you can have whatever you want” with lots of smileys.

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“I am so happy, I love my chancellor”, then replied Thomas Schmid. Already weakened by the publication of these exchanges, the latter was forced to resign from the management of the ÖBAG on Tuesday, June 8, after the revelation of new messages in which he requests in particular a diplomatic passport to avoid “Travel like the populace”. On June 3, it was former justice minister Wolfgang Brandstetter, also a member of Mr Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), who had previously been forced to resign from the Constitutional Council after the publication of discussions with a former chief prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, where the latter suggests “To export to Cuba” the Constitutional Court, accused of making decisions too left-wing.

Accusations of nepotism

All these characters have in common that they are members of Mr. Kurz’s direct entourage and that they are linked to various corruption investigations launched by the Austrian justice system on his first government, then in coalition with the extreme right ( 2017-2019). As part of these investigations, prosecutors have found thousands of exchanges in the entourage of the chancellor. Even if they are not always linked to the initial investigations, these messages were in part passed on to the parliamentary commission of inquiry, which is currently working on the same subject. Unsurprisingly, the content of the most disturbing messages was then passed on to the press.

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