Dhe former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has had the serious allegations made against him by his former colleague Thomas Schmid in his testimony to the public prosecutor rejected. Kurz’s lawyer Werner Suppan commented: “The allegations made by Schmid are false.” He accused Schmid of intending to obtain reduced sentences for himself by incriminating and blackening Kurz. Rather, Schmid “hopes that by smacking and accusing everyone else of being able to obtain leniency status. His allegations are false and that will be proven,” the lawyer said. The President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, also rejected accusations that he had intervened in a tax matter against associations close to him.
On Tuesday, the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA) announced that the former head of the federal investment holding company ÖBAG had testified comprehensively since April of this year. The contents of his statement have now become known, they are in the comprehensive investigation file, to which a total of 45 suspects or their lawyers have access.
Fascinated by the impact on survey results?
Schmid himself is one of the accused in various investigative strands of this process. It has been determined since June 2019, when he was head of the federal holding company ÖBAG, it is about allegations of post allocation, bribery, infidelity. Schmid was previously a top official in the Ministry of Finance and an important ally of Kurz there. Kurz is also being investigated because there is a suspicion that Schmid placed surveys in the spirit of Kurz in a free sheet and financed this with tax money from the Ministry of Finance. Schmid expressly confirmed this suspicion of the WKStA and named Kurz as his client.
After the name of the commissioned opinion researcher Sabine Beinschab, Schmid had described the mechanism of surveys and advertisements in the free paper as the “Beinschab tool”. According to the interrogation record, Schmid said he first discussed the idea with Kurz when he was foreign minister, i.e. before March 2016. Kurz was fascinated by the fact that various actors under the then SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann worked closely with the pollster Sophie Karmasin, which enabled them to influence survey results.
Kurz was not yet the ÖVP chairman at the time, so he could not finance it through the party. It was briefly clear that it could only be financed by the Ministry of Finance (BMF), Schmid stated. “I promoted Kurz and the ÖVP from the BMF, used the resources of the BMF to support the advancement of the ÖVP under Sebastian Kurz.” While Kurz always stated that he knew nothing about the agreements that ultimately worked in his favor were made in the Ministry of Finance, Schmid expressly stated: “Yes, he was aware of that. It is very important for me to emphasize that I only implemented this tool because I received the order from Kurz. I implemented this tool for Kurz.”
President of the National Council speaks of “unfounded allegations”
Schmid also testified that after the investigation against himself became known, Kurz put him under pressure to take all the blame and hand over his data to him. However, he had opposed the demand to submit a written statement to that effect. He felt “used”, which is why he was ready to testify.
Schmid also charged National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), who used to be Minister of the Interior. Sobotka successfully intervened for tax audits at the “Alois Mock Foundation or at the Alois Mock Institute” and at the “Erwin Proell Foundation”. “It was then settled in accordance with Mag. Sobotka,” said Schmid. Sobotka was President of the Alois Mock Institute, which was also a topic in the investigative committee several times. The “Dr. Erwin Proell Private Foundation” is named after the former governor of Lower Austria, under whom Sobotka was a provincial councilor (minister). Both foundations, which were close to the Lower Austrian ÖVP, as can be concluded from their orientation, personnel and address, have since been dissolved.
Sobotka said: “If someone seems to have been desperately trying to obtain leniency status for months, then they are entitled to any means to achieve mitigating circumstances in the sentencing process. Blacking out political decision-makers guarantees maximum media attention. The allegations against me are completely unfounded and I categorically reject them.”