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27 Aug, 2021 13:12

Austria’s former Vice-Chancellor Strache maintains his innocence after court finds him guilty of corruption over ‘Ibiza affair’

Austria’s former Vice-Chancellor Strache maintains his innocence after court finds him guilty of corruption over ‘Ibiza affair’

Former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was convicted of corruption and handed a 15-month suspended sentence on Friday over an illegal €10,000 ($11,760) donation to his party, dubbed the ‘Ibiza affair’.

The conviction marks the end of the first criminal trial against the former senior politician. A number of investigations were launched into Strache after a secretly recorded video appeared to show him offering political favors to a woman who was posing as a wealthy donor.

Strache was on trial alongside private clinic owner Walter Grubmuller, who was accused of making an illegal €10,000 donation to the Freedom Party in what prosecutors claimed was an attempt to secure a change in the law that would benefit his clinic by allowing it to charge medical treatments directly to the country’s public health insurance fund.

The law change occurred in 2018, although Strache stated in court that the legislative action was not influenced by donations but because the clinic was previously treated unfairly by the Austrian government. Grubmuller was also convicted over the donation and handed a year’s suspended sentence.

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The ‘Ibiza affair’ relates to the 2017 video sting that captured Strache and another member of his Freedom Party hinting at an illegal system by which political favors were granted in return for donations. Strache has rejected this is what happened, claiming the sting was a “honey trap stage-managed by intelligence agencies” and recorded while he was and possibly drugged.

When the footage was released to the media in 2019, it brought down the coalition government in Austria, forcing snap elections to be held and resulting in a number of corruption enquiries being launched into Strache and the Freedom Party.

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