Austrian ex-chancellor charged with making false statements to corruption inquiry

Austrian ex-chancellor charged with making false statements to corruption inquiry

Sebastian Kurz to go on trial in October, faces up to 3 years in prison if convicted

By Timo Kirez

GENEVA (AA) – Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will have to stand trial in October on charges of making a false statement to a parliamentary inquiry into an alleged corruption, prosecutors said on Friday.

It already became public on May 12, 2021 that the Austrian Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office (WKStA) had initiated investigations against Kurz, the party leader of the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP). But only today on Friday, it introduced a criminal complaint in the matter of about 100 pages.

Kurz served as Austria's chancellor from 2017 to 2019 and then in another term from 2020 to 2021. The WKStA accuses Kurz of giving false testimony before a parliamentary investigative committee on June 24, 2020.

At the time, the MPs wanted to know from Kurz, among other things, whether and, if so, how the then chancellor had been involved in the promotion of Thomas Schmid to head of the state-owned holding company Obag.

Obag manages Austria's holdings in a number of listed companies. The company emerged in 2019 from Osterreichische Bundes-und Industriebeteiligungen GmbH (OBIB), which in turn emerged in 2015 from Osterreichische Industrieholding Aktiengesellschaft (OIAG).

Thomas Schmidt was previously secretary general at the Finance Ministry and had previously testified before the Public Prosecutor's Office, accusing Kurz of having prepared the transformation of the then OBIB into today's Obag according to the ideas of the then ruling party OVP.

In addition, according to Schmid, there had been an agreement with Kurz that he should be given the chief post. Kurz denies the allegations against him. The former chancellor wrote on Friday on X, formerly Twitter, that he was informed by journalists about an impending criminal complaint.

Kurz stressed that the accusations were false, and that he and his team were pleased "when the truth finally comes to light and the accusations also turn out to be baseless in court."

The Vienna Criminal Court set three trial dates for the case. On Oct. 18, 20 and 23, Kurz must therefore answer to the court. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

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