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Austria. Far-right leader Herbert Kickl under investigation for corruption

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The Vienna prosecutor's office announced the initiation of a corruption investigation against the leader of the Austrian far-right party, Herbert Kickel. Kickl took over as party leader from a former vice-chancellor who was involved in the “Ibizagate” scandal in 2019. The Russian investor was then supposed to help in the election campaign in exchange for government contracts. The Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe), led by Kickl, is leading in opinion polls several months before the parliamentary elections.

According to the Central Prosecutor's Office for Economic Crimes and Corruption (WKStA), the leader of the far-right party, Herbert Kickl, is accused of ordering advertising in a large group in 2018 and 2019, when his FPOe party was in the government coalition, as the Minister of Interior press release “at the expense of the Republic of Austria”, and in return the media committed to “party-friendly” coverage.

The prosecutor's office specifies that the previous leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe), Heinz-Christian Strache, former vice-chancellor of Austria, is under a similar investigation.

“It is suspected that the media entrepreneur promised the then vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache favorable relations and improvement of the image of his party. In return, at the request of the relevant ministers, advertisements were placed in the media in the sphere of influence of this entrepreneur at the expense of the Republic of Austria,” she wrote in a statement prosecutors Office.

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See also: She posed as a Russian investor and was supposed to help in the elections. Police show photos of the heroine of “Ibizagate”

Herbert Kickl under investigation for corruptionTwitter/FPOE_TV

The Austrian Freedom Party leads in the polls

Strache was expelled from the FPOe party after the coalition collapsed following the 2019 scandal. After Strache's departure, Kickl became the party leader. This party is leading in the polls, with approximately 30 percent. support and is definitely ahead of the conservatives and social democrats currently in power together with the Greens.

Parliamentary elections will be held in October.

“Ibizagate”. The Russian investor was supposed to help in the election campaign

In May 2019, a political scandal in Ibiza (“Ibizagate”) led to the breakdown of the coalition between the Austrian People's Party (OVP) and the Freedom Party of Australia (FPOe) and early elections in Austria. The scandal was caused by a video shot by a private detective, which showed how the then vice-chancellor, Heinz-Christiane Strache, during a meeting organized in a hotel in Ibiza in 2017, promised government contracts and other benefits in exchange for support for his campaign before the parliamentary elections.

In the tapes from Ibiza, the “investor” says that she wants to invest several hundred million euros in Austria. The woman claimed to be the niece of Russian oligarch Igor Makarov. As “Der Spiegel” wrote, the conversation allegedly showed that the funds came from a questionable source. The Russian was considering taking over 50 percent of the shares in the influential tabloid “Kronen Zeitung” and supporting FPOe in the then ongoing parliamentary election campaign. – If the media supports us two or three weeks before the elections, we will achieve not 27 percent, but 34 percent. And that's what it's all about – said Strache, clearly excited, in a fragment of the recording published on the website of “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”.

See also: She posed as a Russian investor and was supposed to help in the elections

Later in the video, the then vice-chancellor of Austria said that if he co-created the government, in exchange for help, the Russian woman could receive public contracts. – She should set up a company like Strabag (a construction company based in Vienna – ed.). Then she will receive all the state contracts that Strabag now receives, the politician from the nationalist-conservative party promised.

The meeting participants also discussed ways of financially supporting FPOe bypassing applicable regulations, according to which donations above EUR 50,000 must be reported immediately.

Main photo source: Twitter/FPOE_TV

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