Heinz-Christian Strache no longer has many friends in Austrian politics – and the verdict on Friday, with which the former FPÖ politician was sentenced to 15 months probation, should still have his status as a pariah under liability. His former party no longer wants to have anything to do with him, the voters no longer like him, charges of fraud are still pending, and now he has also been convicted of bribery. A judge in Vienna was certain that Strache had a rich friend, a clinic operator, hired her for his cause and, among other things, lobbyed for donations of over 12,000 euros. She did not believe the assurances of Strache and his friend that he was only concerned with justice in the health service. The temporal connection between the flow of money and political activities is too noticeable.
Anti-corruption fighters in Austria celebrate the verdict, perhaps a little prematurely, as courageous and groundbreaking: They hope it is just the beginning of the great clean-up in the Ibiza swamp. It came to light in 2019 with the video on which Strache promised half the republic to a supposed Russian oligarch niece. The ruling is first and foremost a great success for the business and corruption prosecutor’s office, which was recently massively criticized against other members of the former ÖVP-FPÖ government and investigated by the ÖVP, the Chancellor’s party. It is not for nothing that the public prosecutor’s office now says that this “procedure is only part of a larger complex”; that is only “the beginning”. You can read it as a declaration of war against the ÖVP, accusing the judiciary of hubris and partisanship and always emphasizing certain that all proceedings would come to nothing.
The judge ties a chain of circumstantial evidence
Until recently, it was said in this case, too, that the evidence would not be enough, with party donations of over 12,000 euros you cannot buy a law, and Strache was at the beginning of his activities for the friend Still an opposition politician and thus powerless. The judge but the public prosecutor’s office and follows standards, because of which numerous ÖVP politicians are now likely to sleep worse. SHE ties a chain of circumstantial evidence and has proven itself firmly: In order to be called corrupt, it is sufficient to have an advantage promised and then to control the express interest of the other party – even if you do not accept the promised advantage.
Whether her judgment survives the appeal, whether her chain of circumstantial evidence holds up before higher authorities, is another question. This will also show whether there will be a turning point in Austria – a country in which political corruption is still belittled as a friendly economy. And where die ÖVP has just ended a committee of inquiry with the help of the green government partner, in which numerous indications for this political corruption were unearthed.
The judgment in the first Ibiza trial shows a new sensitivity of the judiciary in dealing with the understanding of office of politicians. Now word only has to get around to those who mean it.