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12 May, 2021 11:01

Austria’s Chancellor Kurz confirms he’s under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors over parliamentary testimony

Austria’s Chancellor Kurz confirms he’s under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors over parliamentary testimony

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he is under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption prosecutors over alleged false statements given during parliamentary hearings. Kurz denies any wrongdoing.

The statements, alleged to be false, were made by the official before a parliamentary committee probing the so-called ‘Ibiza affair,’ the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office (WKStA) has confirmed.

“It is regarding the allegation that a false statement was made before the Ibiza Commission of Inquiry,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor office has said.

The Austrian leader said during a brief press-conference on Wednesday that he has been targeted by the WKStA, claiming he “knew there was a legal requirement to speak the truth in the commission and therefore, of course, always answered truthfully.”

The WKStA probe also targets Kurz’s cabinet chief, Bernhard Bonelli. Kurz faced the committee last June and Bonelli appeared before it back in February. Lying to such an institution is punishable by up to three years behind bars, according to Austrian law.

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The ‘Ibiza affair’ unfolded back in May 2019, when explosive ‘leaked’ footage was published by German media. The video showed leader of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) Johann Gudenus and then-vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, meeting a woman pretending to be a niece of a Russian oligarch and discussing a ‘quid-pro-quo’ deal.

The publication sparked a major scandal in Austria, leading to the downfall of the first government led by Kurz. While he managed to regain power, he had to enter a coalition with the Greens rather than the FPO to reclaim control of the government.

The Ibiza affair was later revealed to be an elaborate political hit job, with the “oligarch’s niece” reportedly turning out to be a Bosnian student, paid up to €7,000 for her act. While the man who appeared in the scandalous video as her associate was arrested in Germany last December, the woman’s whereabouts remain unknown.  Moreover, the recordings turned out to be made back in 2017, long before Strache assumed his office, with the version aired by German media having been heavily cut.

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Despite questions piling up about the video and those behind it, the probe in Austria into the Ibiza affair is ongoing. Back in April, former vice-Chancellor Strache was formally charged with corruption and faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

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