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Call for pre-trial detention for Grasser

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Call for pre-trial detention for Grasser
Grasser and his wife Fiona often holiday on the Italian island of Capri. Photo: APA
11:49 CEST+02:00
Photos have emerged of the former finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser in swimwear on a boat off the island of Capri - despite the fact that he is said to be ill with pneumonia and has postponed a court hearing into his unpaid taxes.

The photos were taken by a tourist, three days before the news came that he had been taken ill and would not be appearing at Vienna’s Commercial Court. A pediatrician from Capri sent a note to the court confirming that Grasser was not well enough to attend.

Hannes Jarolim, justice spokesman for the Social Democrats said that it was obvious that Grasser was trying to delay the court hearing. “The judiciary should not allow itself to be mucked around like this,” he told the Kurier paper.

Jarolim said that once Grasser was back in Austria it should be ascertained whether “his strange behaviour might lead to him being a flight risk” - and if he should in fact be detained before his trial. 

"When you compare how quickly the judiciary imposes pre-trial detention in other cases the question arises as to whether all suspects are treated equally," he added.

"Grasser does everything to lengthen the trial, presenting himself as victim of the justice system", the Green Party's Spokesman for Justice Albert Steinhauser said on Monday.

"If there is any need to prove that Grasser is not interested in speeding up the trials, it has been demonstrated now," Jarolim added.

"My client was sick last week, there is no reason for anyone to doubt it," Grasser’s lawyer Dieter Böhmdorfer said, in response to the photos and accusations.

Grasser denies any accusations of wrongdoing, saying that he only did what his tax advisor told him to do. He is now suing his former tax advisor, for giving him bad advice.

His advisor, Peter Haunold, and his accounting firm Deloitte said that Grasser had departed from their original proposals to establish a trust.

Grasser has also been named in a number of corruption cases, including the allegation that he embezzled funds in the course of privatizing 60,000 state-owned flats (run by the Buwog housing company) in 2003-04.

Moreover the former minister is in trouble over unpaid taxes. In 2011, reports said that Grasser placed €18,000 in a share depot in Canada and did not pay tax on it between 2002 and 2008.

In 2010, with other finance inquiries closing in on him, he finally reported the matter to the Austrian tax authorities himself. Under Austrian law this cleared him of penalties, which caused great outrage at the time.

Furthermore Grasser owed the huge sum of €5.4 million in back-taxes between 2003 and 2010. Grasser's critics allege he dodged taxes by transferring money to Liechtenstein, Cyprus and elsewhere.

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