Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is under investigation for allegations that government money was used in a corrupt deal to ensure positive coverage in a tabloid newspaper, prosecutors have announced.
A statement from prosecutors on Wednesday said the raids were part of a series of raids involving two government ministries, the latest legal headache for Kurz and his right-wing People’s Party.
Finance Minister Geronet Blumel confirmed that there had been a crackdown on his ministry, and Austrian media reported that the chancellor was one of the targets.
Prosecutors said Kurz and nine other individuals, as well as three agencies, are investigating the matter.
The gist of the complaint is that, between 2016 and 2018, the finance ministry’s resources were used to finance partially manipulated public opinion polls, which exclusively served the party’s political interests, prosecutors said.
It relates to the time when Kurz took over the leadership of the People’s Party and led it into government in an alliance with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPOE).
Prosecutors allege that an unnamed media company “paid” to publish the survey.
The company in question has not been officially named, but has been widely identified as an ostrich tabloid in the Austrian media.
The group led by Oesterreich issued a statement denying any wrongdoing in its survey commission or publication.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reported from Berlin, said the newspaper in question had conducted an opinion poll, which “put Mr Kurz’s team in a very desirable light, and it was not kept as an advertisement”.
Why said that certain people in that newspaper were then given positions on the board of a certain company.
“The proposal that prosecutors are making is that federal finance was involved – that means government money, that is, taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“This is the first time [Kurz] He is personally under investigation for corruption and bribery, ”Ken added.
‘House of cards’
There was no direct response from Kurz, who attended a summit of EU leaders in Slovenia.
However, other PPP politicians reacted angrily to the campaign with the party’s deputy general secretary, Gabriela Schwartz, saying they were “for show” and “allegations were made in the events of five years ago”.
People’s Party MP Andreas Hanger called the prosecutor’s office’s investigation a “leftist cell.”
The latest allegations could put new pressure on the party’s alliance with the Green Party, which is already under pressure as a result of previous scandals.
The 2019 Ibiza-Gate affair with the Freedom Party led to the great collapse of Kurz’s previous government.
Investigators began investigating corruption after Heinz-Christian Strach, the former head of the FPOe, was caught on camera, proposing a public deal in exchange for help with the FPOe’s campaign.
Some of these have targeted high-profile People’s Party figures, including Bluemail.
Kurz was investigated for making false statements to a parliamentary committee on corruption, although no charges were brought against him.
The main opposition Social Democrats said Wednesday’s campaign had seen the People’s Party “smashing cards” and criticized Kurz’s party for “disrespecting the independent judiciary and trying to derail its investigation.”
For now, prominent Green Party politicians have been wary of recent allegations, which spread just days after the government unveiled a carbon tax as part of a major “eco-social” overhaul of the tax system.
Vice-Chancellor Warner Cougar told reporters that the operation had no effect on the coalition’s governing power.
He did, however, push against marking the People’s Party’s campaign as a show, noting that the warrant would require the approval of a judge.