Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hit by new corruption scandal

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hit by new corruption scandal
Credit: Belga

On Friday, former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz denounced “trumped-up accusations” made against him a day after a newspaper was raided by the authorities on suspicion of writing flattering articles about him in exchange for advertising inserts.

Prosecution investigators visited the headquarters of the tabloid Heute in Vienna on Thursday, on the basis of testimony from the former Secretary-General of the Austrian Finance ministry, a close ally of Kurz at the time.

Thomas Schmid, himself implicated by the investigation but hoping for a reprieve by cooperating with justice, has given prosecutors damning details in a series of hearings, the contents of which have been published in the press.

He claims Sebastian Kurz had knowledge of the embezzlement of public funds between 2016 and 2018 carried out in order to assist his lightning rise to the top of Austrian politics.

“His statements incriminating me are hardly surprising, as he seeks witness status by accusing others,” the former political leader wrote on Facebook.

The newspaper’s managing editor Eva Dichand also brushed aside on Twitter “the claim” that she “agreed to positive coverage in exchange for advertisements.”

Another tabloid, Österreich, is meanwhile suspected of publishing rigged polls favourable to Sebastian Kurz which was also paid for by public money.

In a separate development, Sebastian Kurz is suspected of lying to a parliamentary committee that was investigating whether he intervened in the appointment of Thomas Schmid as head of a state holding company.

This series of investigations stem from Ibiza affair: the release in 2019 of a hidden camera video taken exposing government cronyism and corruption, which led to the launch of numerous searches against politicians and the seizure of mobile phones.

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