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Scandal of interest exchange scandal of Austrian Deputy Prime Minister triggers chain reaction in politics

Source: China Daily discipline inspection and supervision of: 2019-05-30 10:59:00 Font size: [Big] [Medium] [Small]

Austrian Deputy Prime Minister Strach was forced to resign on May 18 after the "exchange of interests" scandal was exposed.

Video exposed by German media showed that Strach had a close meeting with foreigners before the Austrian National Assembly's October 2017 election, and offered benefits to the foreigners in exchange for Strach's election support.

Video Bombing

The German "Spiegel" weekly magazine and the "Süddeutsche Deutsche" were exposed on May 17, and the video was shot in July 2017 by a hidden camera in a luxury villa in Ibiza, Spain.

In the video, Strach, leader of the Austrian Liberal Party, met with a woman, John Goodenus, a member of the right-wing populist party.

The woman wants to invest in Austria. Stracher was a supporter of her, and she especially discussed helping her gain control of the Austrian newspaper Krone. Strach suggested that the newspaper's new owner could make personnel adjustments, and the woman could then use this platform to help the Austrian Liberal Party participate in the October 2017 National Assembly elections. Once the Liberal Party is successful, the woman can get a public project contract.

In addition, Strach mentioned the possibility of a partial privatisation of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and the arrangement of political contributions outside regular channels in order to evade regulation.

After the video came to light, Strach acknowledged the meeting but denied the law, saying that he "drank too much" that night. Strach met with Prime Minister Kurtz on May 18 and then announced his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Austrian Liberal Party.

Libertarian Secretary-General Christian Hafeneck clarified that Strach and the Liberal Party had not benefited from the relevant personnel, "we are preparing the corresponding legal means (to respond)".

This right-wing party has promised to allow external agencies to review the accounts to prove innocence.

In the October 2017 Austrian National Assembly elections, the Austrian Liberal Party won 26% of the votes, ranking third, and subsequently joined the Austrian People's Party with the highest votes to form a cabinet.

Premier seeks "stop loss"

To minimize the negative impact of the Strach scandal on the government, Prime Minister Kurtz applied to President Vanderbilen for early parliamentary elections.

Vanderbelen and Kurtz told reporters after the meeting on May 19: "As long as the (Austrian) Federal Constitution stipulates that a new start should be made as soon as possible ... I prefer to hold elections in September, and if possible, (preferably) early September . "

"Very much must be done to reshape public trust in public officials," Van der Belem emphasized.

Kurtz told a press conference that his Austrian People's Party and the Austrian Liberal Party have been in power for a year and a half. The latter has been exposed to various scandals from time to time. The video exposed by the German media is "the last straw" and the Liberal Party "defiles the country." reputation".

Kurtz did not approve of the Liberal Party ’s Interior Minister Herbert Kiker to conduct an investigation into the benefit exchange scandal because, when the scandal occurred, Kiker was the Liberal party ’s head. He oversaw the scandal investigation for suspected conflicts of interest.

At the suggestion of Kurtz, Van der Belem fired Kiker's Interior Minister on May 21. Several other Liberal Party ministers announced their resignations immediately. Only one non-partisan appointed by the Liberal Party remained the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Four technical officials took over the vacancies left by the Liberal Party after leaving the government.

Public opinions demand severe punishment

The scandal of the deputy prime minister's interest exchange triggered heavy criticism from Austrians and politicians.

The Austrian editor-in-chief Niki Ferner said that Strach discussed the woman in the video with corrupt and dirty political techniques that tarnished Austria's international image.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered around the office of the Deputy Prime Minister in the capital, Vienna, on May 18, demanding that the scandal be dealt with seriously.

Isaac Humbach, a 24-year-old college student, said the video reflects only "the tip of the iceberg." She called for the removal of all corrupt officials from politics, "in Austria, there is no place for corrupt elements and those fighting for power."

The left-wing "Now Party" said it intends to submit a motion of no confidence in Kurz in parliament, arguing that the scandal video showed the entire government "failed."

Kurtz promised to investigate who secretly filmed Strach's secret meeting. In an interview with Germany's "Photo", he said that the suspect was the chief adviser, Tal Silberstein, who was hired by the Austrian Social Democratic Party in 2017. The latter was good at pointing out strategies for the party, but the tactics were controversial.

Previously similar situation

The European Parliament election is imminent, and the video exposure has negatively affected the Austrian Liberal election. The reveal of Strach's actions is reminiscent of the "encounter" of another Austrian European parliamentarian many years ago. This person was Ernst Strasser, Austria's Interior Minister from 2000 to 2004.

Strassell was a member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2011.

Two British Times reporters disguised as lobbyists in 2011 met with Strassell, saying they hope to get his help. The reporter secretly recorded the entire conversation.

In the video, Strassell brags to reporters about his lobbying skills, saying that as long as customers pay a fee of 100,000 euros (about 770,000 yuan) per year, he can promote the amendment of European Union law. He acknowledged that there were already five similar customers.

After the scandal came to light, Strassell stepped down as European MP.

Strassell was tried in a court in Vienna in November 2012. Prosecutor Alexandra Maruna said that regardless of whether Strasser actually received a fee or sought to promote changes to the law, he had "sold out" to vote and speak for money. "He severely damages European politics, and in a country with a good legal system, a lawmaker must never sell his work and voting rights for money."

Strassell had argued in court that he said such things when meeting the Times reporters because he suspected that the other party was a US intelligence agent and wanted to trace their true purpose. This excuse drew laughter from observers and media reporters.

In early 2013, Strassell was sentenced to 4 years in prison for bribery.

Anti-corruption still needs fire

Austria has made great achievements in the field of anti-corruption for many years. In 2010, the International Anti-Corruption Academy “settled” in Vienna. The college's main tasks are to provide education and professional training in anti-corruption; to conduct and promote academic research in the field of anti-corruption; to provide technical assistance related to combating corruption; to promote international cooperation in the field of combating corruption and to establish relevant networks.

In 2011, the Austrian Economic Crime and Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Prosecutor Geil criticized Austria for having loopholes in the laws restricting bribery of officials and politicians, and demanded that relevant regulations be improved.

According to the 2018 Global Corruption Index released by an international corruption watchdog, Austria ranks 14th out of 180 countries. But within the EU, its anti-corruption effect is not optimal. According to the aforementioned Global Corruption Index, Austria ranks ninth among EU member states, behind Denmark, Finland and other countries.

In recent years, Austria has repeatedly exposed government officials to corruption scandals. The day before the Stracher interest exchange scandal came to light, former Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grassel went to the Vienna Regional Criminal Court for suspicion of bribery.

The court began hearing in December 2017 on Grassel, who served as Treasurer from 2000 to 2007.

Prosecutors allege that Grassel led Buwog, a privatized state-owned housing company in 2004, to report to a private company to help the latter win the bid. The sale involved 60,000 houses and sold for more than 900 million euros (about 6.94 billion yuan).

In exchange, the company promised Glaser and his associates a rebate equivalent to 10% of the selling price, which is more than 9 million euros (about 69.364 million yuan). After 8 years of investigation, the prosecutor's office sued Glassell and other defendants on a number of counts, including bribery and breach of trust.

A co-defendant accused Glassell of personally swallowing more than 2.4 million euros (about 18.497 million yuan) in bribes.

The case is still pending. (Contributing reporter Li Muran)

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