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19 May, 2019 15:19

‘I was only child’: Russian oligarch denies links to woman in epicenter of Austrian leak scandal

‘I was only child’: Russian oligarch denies links to woman in epicenter of Austrian leak scandal

Igor Makarov, a Russian oligarch whose supposed “niece” was filmed discussing alleged shady deals with the Austrian vice-chancellor, stated he has no family links to that woman as he was “an only child” in his family.

“It is widely known that I was the only child in my family, and I have no nieces whatsoever,” Makarov’s spokesperson told Forbes’ Russian edition. “I have no family bonds with the woman who calls herself Alena Makarova and I don’t know her at all,” he added.

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The woman in question featured in a video leaked to two German publications, Spiegel and Suddeutsche Zeitung. The 2017 footage shows her meeting with Heinz-Christian Strache, Austrian vice-chancellor and leader of the rightwing populist Freedom Party (FPO), and his aide Johann Gudenus, allegedly discussing corruption schemes.

While Spiegel did not identify the woman in their initial article, Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote that she was introduced to the politicians as "a niece" of Igor Makarov, "a Russian oligarch close to [President Vladimir] Putin.”

Makarov is the founder of Itera (now Areti), Russia's first non-state gas company. In the late-1990s, the firm re-sold gas from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, where Makarov was born. He is ranked 48th in the list of Russia’s wealthiest people with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

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As the story unfolds, Makarov’s company is now “using all lawful means to establish who was behind the illegal use of [his] name.”

Meanwhile in Austria, the scandal led to the resignation of Strache as vice-chancellor and head of the FPO. The government, led by conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, proposed a snap election set for early September of this year. Strache denies any wrongdoings, saying the leaked video lacks key details and its publication two years after the events was “a political assassination.”

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