Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with his former coalition partner and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache at the 2018 budget presentation in parliament
Photo: LISI NIESNER / EPA-EFE
As if Austria's prosecutors weren't busy enough: A new complaint is due to be received in Vienna this Thursday on suspicion of bribery against two former members of the government. As SPIEGEL learned in advance, the former FPÖ Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Hartwig Löger from the ÖVP Chancellor party are affected. Löger was finance minister until May 2019 and for a short time even deputy and acting head of government.
Other proceedings are already being investigated against Strache and Löger. In the current criminal complaint with the Economic and Corruption Public Prosecutor's Office (WKStA), which SPIEGEL has received, the accused are accused of having provided life insurance providers with a significant monetary benefit at the expense of their customers through a change in the law in July 2018. In return, it is suspected, party donations were made.
While the former FPÖ boss Strache was sentenced to 15 months probation in a similar case in the first instance, an indictment against Löger on suspicion of infidelity is still pending. The new criminal complaint against the party friend of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was brought in by the consumer protection association (VSV). It fits into a series of affairs that are now difficult to keep track of that came to light in Austria following the Ibiza video published by SPIEGEL and Süddeutscher Zeitung.
It remains to be decided whether Chancellor Kurz will soon be charged with suspicion of false testimony.
The head of government is accused of having knowingly told the untruth in the parliamentary committee of inquiry "regarding the alleged buyability of the turquoise-blue government" - that is, the coalition of the Christian conservative ÖVP and the right-wing populist FPÖ that broke up after the Ibiza video became known.
Yesterday it became known that Kurz had been questioned by a judge on September 3rd on suspicion of false testimony.
The Austrian Chancellery confirmed a corresponding report in the »Kronen-Zeitung« to SPIEGEL.
More ÖVP sizes in sight
In essence, the Chancellor's testimony to the committee was about the question of whether he was directly involved in the promotion of his long-term confidante Thomas Schmid to head of the more than 26 billion euro state holding company Öbag.
Kurz had answered this question in the negative in front of parliamentarians - a point of view that is doubted by the prosecutors of the WKStA on the basis of evaluated cell phone data.
The Chancellor denies having deliberately given false testimony.
Even in the event of an indictment, he has made this clear, he wants to remain in office.
Investigations continue to be carried out against ÖVP finance minister Gernot Blümel as well as against the head of cabinet of the chancellor and against two former ÖVP ministers, including ex-vice chancellor Josef Pröll.
For the former Vice Chancellors Strache and Löger, the presumption of innocence naturally applies up to a possible conviction including the following claims for damages on the part of the insurance customers, explain the plaintiffs.
From now on, however, based on material from the Ibiza Committee of Inquiry, it must be examined whether the providers of life insurance have "bought a law" with the help of the ÖVP-FPÖ government.
The public prosecutors have the floor once more.