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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
Employees in the LifeBrain laboratory prepare the coronavirus (Covid-19) PCR gargle test samples in Vienna on February 1, 2022. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Vienna company director jailed for COVID-19 test fraud, ORF expects 70,000 to 80,000 lawsuits against ORF contribution, and more news from Austria on Tuesday.


Vienna company director jailed for COVID-19 test fraud

A Viennese company director was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for orchestrating a large-scale COVID-19 testing scam. The scheme involved billing for over 71,000 fake PCR tests, resulting in damages of over €700,000 to the City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria, ORF reported.

The 40-year-old managing director pleaded guilty to fraud between €300,000 and €400,000. His cousin, responsible for the IT aspect of the scam, received a 21-month sentence, partially suspended. The company boss's wife was acquitted.

The elaborate scam involved submitting lists of fictitious individuals with fabricated addresses, social security numbers, and test tubes containing fake samples. The managing director even admitted to providing some of the samples himself.

While the court acknowledged the cousin's remorse and cooperation with authorities, the managing director's sentence reflects the severity of the fraud and its impact on public funds during the pandemic.

What does Austria’s far-right win in the EU elections mean for foreigners?

Austria's far-right party FPÖ won this weekend's European elections, but what are the domestic implications of this historic success, particularly for foreigners in the country?

ORF expects 70,000 to 80,000 lawsuits against ORF contribution

According to ORF management, 430,000 more households have voluntarily started paying the ORF contribution since the beginning of the year. The ORF Foundation Council was informed that approximately 80 percent of these new payers opted for direct debit payments.

However, the ORF also faces challenges: It anticipates 70,000 to 80,000 new payers will file complaints against the contribution, Der Standard reported. Also, around 170,000 households identified by the Ministry of Finance as potential players haven't been located yet, resulting in a significant shortfall in contribution income for the public broadcaster.

A "special commission" is actively searching for these missing households to address this. Meanwhile, the ORF is utilising GIS funds from 2022 and 2023 to cover the current income gap.


Nazi slogans at Zillertal young farmers' party

A country youth party in Zillertal has come under scrutiny following reports of xenophobic chants during the event. According to the Tiroler Tageszeitung, partygoers were heard singing slogans like "Germany to the Germans" and "Foreigners out" to the tune of Gigi D'Agostino's "L'amour toujours."

Christoph Pirnbacher, Tyrol's regional chairman, expressed shock and disappointment, emphasising that such behaviour does not align with the organisation's diversity, respect, and inclusivity values.

This incident follows a similar controversy in Sylt, Germany, where slogans were chanted to the same song. The recurrence of such behaviour highlights the potential influence of social media trends and the importance of critical thinking and distancing oneself from negative influences.


Austria experiences tornado and unsettled weather

A tornado formed in the Hungarian border region on Sunday, following days of heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and hail across Austria. 

The Severe Weather Warning Center (UWZ) confirmed the tornado's first ground contact near Großpetersdorf.

The unsettled weather will continue in the coming days, with rain and showers expected in various parts of the country. However, conditions are expected to gradually calm down, with drier spells and occasional sunshine anticipated towards the end of the week. Temperatures will remain moderate, ranging from 11 to 21 degrees Celsius.

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