Former Austrian vice chancellor convicted over corruption

A Vienna court convicted the former leader of Austria's far-right Heinz-Christian Strache of a corruption charge on Friday in a case stemming from a 2019 scandal known as "Ibizagate".

Former Austrian vice chancellor convicted over corruption
Austria's former Vice-Chancellor, former chairman of the far-right Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

Strache, one of Europe’s most high-profile former far-right leaders, was given a 15-month suspended jail sentence.

The Ibizagate scandal led to Strache resigning as vice-chancellor and head of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

The affair brought down the coalition between the FPOe and the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and triggered fresh elections in the Alpine EU member.

‘Ibizagate’: What you need to know about the Austrian political corruption scandal

The scandal broke when video footage emerged of Strache promising public contracts to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece in exchange for support for the FPOe’s 2017 election campaign.

The video, which was secretly filmed on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, led to a sprawling investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors who turned up several other allegations of wrongdoing against Strache and other prominent politicians.

Acquitted on second charge 

In the current trial the 52-year-old Strache was found guilty of helping change a law to help an FPOe donor friend of his to secure public funding for his private hospital.

Strache’s co-accused Walter Grubmueller, a long-standing friend and owner of a private health clinic, was also found guilty and given a 12-month suspended sentence.

Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt said Strache had been acquitted of a second charge of receiving favours in the form of a trip to the Greek island of Corfu at Grubmueller’s invitation. Strache had protested his innocence throughout the trial.

Prosecutor Bernhard Weratschnig said in his closing argument that holders of public office should remain above even the perception of corruption and that the “advantages” Strache received were “indisputable”. “Every euro is one euro too many,” he said.

According to an SMS exchange uncovered by prosecutors, Strache had asked Grubmueller which amendments to legislation would be needed in order for Grubmueller’s clinic “to finally be treated in a fair manner”.

During Strache’s time in government, the law was amended to enable clinics like that of Grubmueller to receive money from the public health insurance fund.

Strache has also been accused of embezzling party funds to pay for his luxurious lifestyle during the 14 years he headed the FPOe, though he has not been charged over this.

Kurz returned to the chancellorship after the scandal, this time at the head of a coalition between his OeVP and the Greens, and has thus far managed to avoid any serious political damage from “Ibizagate”. The OeVP was even able to gain many disaffected FPOe voters in 2019 polls.

But in May, prosecutors announced they were investigating the 35-year-old on suspicion of giving false testimony to a committee of lawmakers probing “Ibizagate” and other graft allegations.

Kurz has denied the allegation and has insisted he will not bow to pressure to resign, even if formally charged. 

Party infighting 

The FPOe’s vote share crashed from 26 percent in 2017 to just 16 percent in 2019. The party has spent much of the time since the scandal consumed by infighting.

In June, Strache’s successor as leader, Norbert Hofer, resigned after weeks of tension with party colleague and former interior minister Herbert Kickl.

Kickl, seen as a party ideologue and mastermind of some of its anti-Islam and anti-migrant campaigns, took over as leader.

Meanwhile, Strache attempted a political comeback last year with a bid to be Vienna’s mayor, but his list won just three percent of the vote in municipal elections.

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How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.