Austria ex-minister charged with fraud in graft scandal
A former Austrian minister was charged on Tuesday with "serious fraud", prosecutors said, with the accusations coming to light as they investigate a graft scandal that brought down former chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Kurz stepped down last year amid a wide-ranging scandal, marking a spectacular fall from grace for a politician who had been hailed as the "Wunderkind" of Europe's conservatives.
Prosecutors probing the affair charged Sophie Karmasin, who was family minister from 2013 to 2017 before Kurz came to power in 2017.
Karmasin is accused of defrauding the government of €78,500 ($81,300) by receiving payment from 2017 to 2018 despite getting new sources of income, prosecutors said in a statement.
She is also accused of colluding with others from April 2019 to June 2021 to ensure her company received government contracts to carry out studies, prosecutors added. She faces up to three years in prison if found guilty, the statement said.
A government official was also charged over their alleged involvement in collusion to win government contracts.
The scandal that brought down Kurz erupted in October last year when prosecutors ordered raids at the chancellery and the finance ministry while investigating allegations that his inner circle used public money to pay for polls, which were skewed to boost Kurz's image.
Prosecutors also suspect that in return for the polls, and fawning coverage of Kurz, tabloid Oesterreich received lucrative public adverts.