• Austria's news in English

Austrian court unfreezes ambassador's accounts

The Local · 11 Sep 2014, 15:36

Published: 11 Sep 2014 15:36 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Zalmay Khalilzad, a senior diplomat to the near east under the Bush administration, discovered in May 2013 that his wife's Austrian bank accounts -- supposedly containing around €1.15 million (US$1.5 million) had been frozen by Austrian authorities.

On Monday, the Profil news magazine reported that a cache of documents obtained from the recycling bins of the Austrian court system revealed that a court had imposed the asset freeze in response to an investigation from U.S. authorities.  Reports suggested that the Austrian authorities acted a little too zealously in response to what was only intended to be a request for information.

Khalilzad's wife, Cheryl Benard, holds dual Austrian and US citizenship, having completed her studies in Austria.  A lawyer for Benard, Holger Bielesz, stated that he went to court in March to unblock the assets.  A decision was made to unfreeze the accounts on September 3rd, but was only revealed to him on Wednesday.

“The appellate decision by the regional high court is a complete vindication of the position of Ms. Benard and Ambassador Khalilzad,” the statement said. “The seizure of the accounts is lifted and the funds in the accounts are no longer frozen.”

Bielesz refused to comment on details of the Profil report, which suggested that large sums of money had been transferred into several accounts held by Benard as a result of deals with Iraqi and United Arab Emirates companies.

Story continues below…

According to a report in the New York Times, the US Department of Justice has been conducting an investigation into possible tax evasion and money laundering, and had sent a routine request to Austria for judicial assistance, citing the importance of strict confidentiality.  The document leak which brought the freeze to light is a huge embarrassment for Austrian authorities.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Radioactive uranium rocks on display in Austrian schools
Uraninite crystals. Photo: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com/Wikimedia

Education officials have carried out urgent checks in schools across the country after one of the stones on display in a classroom turned out to be radioactive.

Austrian churches slam far-right's 'God' slogan
Campaign poster for Norbert Hofer. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Austrian church officials have denounced far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer for "instrumentalising" God in a new slogan.

'Scary clown' pushes 14-year-old off his bike in Salzburg
Generic photo: Graeme Maclean/Flick

A 14-year-old boy in Salzburg has been injured after being pushed off his bike by an individual dressed as a scary clown.

Police puzzled by random stabbing of teenager in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A 15-year-old boy who was stabbed near his home in the Vienna district of Liesing on Friday morning by a complete stranger has spoken to the police.

'Sensational' 300-year-old Madonna found in Burgenland
The head of the statue was found beside the body. Photo: ORF

A 300-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary has been found hidden in a chapel next to a Catholic church in Loretto, Burgenland.

Baumgartner 'failed to mention Red Bull' before jumping to Earth
Felix Baumgartner. Photo: Red Bull Stratos

Felix Baumgartner has been accused of cheating his Red Bull sponsors after he failed to mention the energy drink just before he jumped to Earth.

Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available