Austria: the leader of the extreme right compromised by a hidden camera

Big time in sight for the Austrian extreme right to ten days of the European elections: his leader, also number two of the government, is implicated for attempted collusion with the pseudo-niece of a Russian oligarch in a staged apparently intended to confuse him.

Hidden behind a hidden camera, Deputy Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, a few months before the elections that brought his party to power, participated in a meeting with a woman he believed to be linked to an influential Russian personality. according to information published Friday evening by the German media Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel.

After these revelations, supported by video recordings, the main Austrian opposition parties have demanded the resignation of the number two government led by Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative party that has ruled with the far right since the end of 2017.

The leader of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is filmed discussing with his interlocutor the possibility of investing money in Austria to support his training.

The discussion includes the acquisition of a large stake in the shareholding of the powerful Austrian tabloid, Kronen Zeitung, the first draw in the country, to make it a pro-FPÖ media.

Mr Strache, who is accompanied by one of his lieutenants, Johann Gudenus, current leader of the FPÖ parliamentary group, suggests to his interlocutor that he will be able to obtain public contracts in exchange for this support.

Like Orban

"It will have all the public contracts won today by Strabag", an Austrian construction group, a major player in the sector, says the leader of the FPÖ, according to the transcript of his remarks.

Strache excludes resistance in the editorial staff of the Kronen Zeitung because "journalists are the biggest prostitutes on the planet," he says. Since his return to power in 2017, the FPÖ has been accused of attacking the Austrian media, notably the public television ORF, which it accuses of lacking neutrality.

Mr Strache also explains to his interlocutor that he wants to reshape the Austrian media landscape according to the Hungarian model. In this country, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is criticized for massively undermining the pluralism of the press.

The casual meeting in a villa on the island of Ibiza was a filmed coup to trap the FPÖ boss, according to German media who say they do not know who is behind this organized operation three months before the legislative elections.

The head of the FPÖ admitted to the journalists that this evening, which would have lasted six hours, had taken place but he denied to have committed the least reprehensible act.

According to his statements to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he invoked "the large amount of alcohol consumed" that night and "the important language barrier" with his interlocutor.

According to the published excerpts, Mr. Strache also describes to the visitor a campaign financing mechanism to circumvent the Court of Auditors via payments to an association and not directly to the party. He quotes donations ranging from 500,000 to 2 million euros and lists the names of major donors.

MP Johann Gudenus, who is fluent in Russian, is responsible for ensuring the translation of the exchanges. The FPÖ had signed a co-operation agreement with United Russia, Vladimir Putin's party, before it came to power, which earned him recurrent accusations of troubled relations with Moscow.

Kurz under pressure

A sign of feverishness in the FPÖ, the FPÖ head of the European Parliament, Harald Vilimsky, canceled his trip to Milan on Saturday where Italy's far-right leader Matteo Salvini rallied the nationalist camp ahead of the polls. May 26, says the television ORF.

The Socialist Party (SPÖ) has called the allegations "the biggest scandal" of the last fifty years. The liberal NEOS party has ruled new parliamentary elections "inevitable".

The case, ten days before the European elections, comes in a tense context for the Austrian coalition, Sebastian Kurz being increasingly criticized for its alliance with a party regularly involved in extremist slippages. The Austrian Chancellor is expected to speak Saturday.

The 49-year-old Heinz-Christian Strache took over from Jörg Haider as head of the FPÖ, whose image he strove to smooth out, cultivating a highly-regarded elite profile after pioneering neo-Nazi circles in his youth.

18/05/2019 01:26:54 –
Vienna (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP

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