Austria’s ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been accused by the prosecutor’s office for economic crimes and corruption of providing false statements during a parliamentary inquiry into suspected corruption within his initial government. This development comes after the 36-year-old resigned two years ago amidst a string of allegations that followed the ‘Ibiza-gate’ scandal.
An indictment was filed against the conservative politician and his former chief of staff, Bernhard Bonelli, and a third person at the state court in Vienna, said the prosecutor’s office, in a statement.
It added that they have been accused of giving false testimony before the Ibiza committee of inquiry in the Austrian parliament “regarding the alleged corruptibility of his government.”
The trial on the case is set to begin on October 18. If found guilty, Kurz, also the former leader of the conservative People’s Party, could face up to three years in prison, said the Vienna court.
The court also identified the third person as Bettina Glatz-Kremsner, the former head of Casinos Austria, who is accused of making false statements regarding the appointment of a board member at that entity.
What was the case about?
The charges against Kurz stem from an investigation that was launched in 2021 when he was still in office and is about the testimony to a parliamentary probe that focused on alleged corruption in the coalition that he led starting in 2017, before its collapse in 2019.
The case also centres on the question of whether the then-chancellor answered truthfully when asked about appointments to state holding company OBAG. Kurz was accused of downplaying his role in the appointment in June 2020 of Thomas Schmid, the company’s boss.
He also went on to claim that he was informed in advance about the decision but did not participate any further. However, the prosecutors citing evidence from chat messages have alleged that Kurz was more involved than he previously let on.
Furthermore, Schmid told prosecutors Kurz was aware of the embezzlement of public funds between 2016 and 2018 in order to promote his rise to the leadership of his party and the country, according to local media report leaks.
Kurz defends himself
Prior to the indictment being announced, Kurz denied the accusations. “We look forward to the truth finally coming to light and the accusations turning out to be groundless,” said Kurz, on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Kurz’s government collapsed in 2019 following the ‘Ibiza-gate’ scandal where his vice chancellor resigned after a video of him in Ibiza with a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece went public.
In the video, he apparently offers to fix state contracts and explains how to dodge party financing laws. However, Kurz rose to power again with the environmentalist Greens in early 2020 and was not until October 2021 that he quit.
This was after the prosecutors placed nine people, including him under investigation. The investigation included suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with various levels of involvement.