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24 Feb, 2024 11:56

Ex-Austrian chancellor found guilty of perjury

Sebastian Kurz has said he will pursue all avenues to reverse the judgement
Ex-Austrian chancellor found guilty of perjury

An Austrian court has found former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz guilty of lying to a parliamentary investigatory committee. The 37 year old was handed an eight-month suspended prison sentence for perjury in a verdict delivered on Friday.

The judgment will not enter into force until all attempts to overturn the conviction have been exhausted. Kurtz said he would appeal the ruling. The case against Kurz opened by Austrian prosecutors more than two years ago focused on statements he made in 2020 to a parliamentary investigative committee probing corruption in his government.

Then Chancellor Kurz was accused of lying after he testified he had not played a decisive role in appointing close confidant Thomas Schmid to run Austria’s state holding company OBAG, claiming he was “involved in the sense of informed.”

Evidence supplied by prosecutors included leaked text messages and testimony from Schmid, who was a key state witness. The judge said he found Schmid credible and rejected attempts by the defense to present him as unreliable, ruling that Kurz played an active role in the corruption scheme.

“I find this part of the ruling very unfair,” Kurz told reporters after it was announced. “We have appealed and I am very optimistic that we will receive a ruling in our favor in the second instance,” he added. Kurz, who denies any wrongdoing, told the court before the judgement that the prosecution’s accusations had made him feel “terrible” and “helpless.”

Becoming one of the youngest leaders in the world at age 31, he served twice as chancellor of Austria – from December 2017 to May 2019 and from January 2020 to October 2021. Both of his governments collapsed following a scandal.

In 2019 a video filmed in Spain emerged showing the leader of Kurz’s coalition partner, Heinz-Christian Strache, promising contracts in exchange for campaign support to a woman he believed was the niece of a Russian oligarch.

The resulting fervor toppled Kurz’s government, but his party won the next election and he built a new coalition with the Greens. Kurz appeared to have outridden the storm until investigators stumbled on a flurry of leaked text messages from Schmid, showing that the two men had communicated about the position the latter got with OBAG.