Kurz charged with giving false testimony to Austrian parliament


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Former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been charged with giving false testimony to parliament, in the first criminal legal action lodged against him since a corruption scandal forced him from government two years ago. 

Criminal charges against Kurz, 36, his ex-chief of staff Bernhard Bonelli and a third, unnamed individual were filed by Austrian anti-corruption prosecutors in Vienna on Friday. 

The indictment claims Kurz and Bonelli knowingly misled a special parliamentary investigatory committee set up to probe alleged corruption in the Kurz government. 

Kurz and Bonelli are alleged to have given false testimony in relation to questions over the establishment of Austrian sovereign wealth fund ÖBAG — which controls a network of Austrian businesses and shareholdings worth €31bn — and appointments to its board of directors. 

“It is not surprising to me that [prosecutors] decided to file a criminal complaint despite 30 exculpatory testimonies,” Kurz said in a statement. “The accusations are false and I look forward to the truth finally coming to light and the accusations proving to be unfounded in court.”

Bonelli declined to comment.

If found guilty, Kurz — once regarded as one of the most successful conservative politicians in Europe, who blazed a trail with a hardline stance on immigration wedded to an otherwise socially and fiscally liberal agenda — faces up to three years in prison.

The case will go to trial on October 18.

Kurz served as Austria’s chancellor for two terms stretching from 2017 to 2021, with a brief interregnum in which a caretaker government ruled after his first coalition — with the far right Freedom Party — collapsed in a scandal over Russian political interference.

Since leaving government, Kurz has tried to forge a career in businesses and consultancy — leveraging his political experience and contacts with like-minded politicians such as Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — with a particular focus on the Gulf, where he now spends a large part of his time.

Just two months after resigning he signed up as a “global strategist” for billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel’s Thiel Capital. He has also set up a new cyber security venture with Shalev Hulio, founder of NSO, the spyware company responsible for the Pegasus malware that was sold to governments around the world and used to target political opponents, journalists and human rights activists.

With his former political party, the ÖVP, languishing in the polls, Vienna has been rife with talk of a Kurz comeback.

The charges filed on Tuesday have been long-anticipated. Kurz himself said in May 2021 that he expected to be taken to court over the matter. He and his allies have in the past said the case is flimsy — stressing that the alleged false testimony he made relates to text messages he sent four years before at a time when he was, as chancellor, communicating with dozens of people every day.

Friday’s charges are just one part of a larger investigation into 45 individuals and entities by Austrian prosecutors, known as the “Casag case” after an initial investigation into a partially state-owned gambling company Casinos Austria (Casag) that began it.

As part of that probe, Kurz has also been publicly named by prosecutors as a suspect in serious felonies including corruption, fraud and abuse of office. No charges have yet been brought against Kurz and he has rejected the basis of the investigations.

The affair has cast a deep shadow over Austrian politics since Kurz’s departure, with leaks from the prosecutors’ investigations alleging widespread manipulation of the media and a toxic network of influence across the highest rungs of government and the civil service, in which favours were allegedly doled out by figures in the Kurz administration to some of Austria’s most powerful business figures in return for political backing. One of Kurz’s closest political confidants, Thomas Schmid, turned crown witness last October.

Dozens of high-profile officials, politicians and businesspeople have already been named as suspects.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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