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Austria ex-vice chancellor's home raided in graft probe

By AFP

Added 13th August 2019 08:34 PM

In the latest investigation, prosecutors are probing whether a company appointment was made in return for the promise of granting gambling licenses

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In the latest investigation, prosecutors are probing whether a company appointment was made in return for the promise of granting gambling licenses

The home of Austria's far-right former vice chancellor has been raided in a corruption probe, reports said Tuesday, in a further potential headache for ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz as he seeks re-election.

Heinz-Christian Strache's house was raided Monday as part of a bribery investigation into the appointment of a far-right party official to a high-ranking position at Casinos Austria (Casag), according to media reports.

Strache stepped down as vice chancellor and leader of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) in May over the so-called "Ibiza-gate" affair, which also ended up bringing down Kurz and his coalition government.

Monday's raid was not related to that scandal, but it could further hurt Kurz's People's Party (OeVP) in the September 29 polls.

The OeVP is widely expected to once again emerge as the single strongest party, but it is still expected to need a coalition partner to reach an absolute majority in parliament.

In the latest investigation, prosecutors are probing whether a company appointment was made in return for the promise of granting gambling licenses, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor's Office against Corruption said.

Several raids have been conducted, he said.

Austrian media named Strache among those involved. The Standard daily reported that the OeVP had signed off on the appointment of the FPOe official as financial director of Casag, which develops and manages casinos.

There was no immediate comment from either Strache or Kurz. The FPOe distanced itself from the probe, saying it hoped for a speedy investigation.

"The new party leadership, and the FPOe, are not connected to this in any way," the party said in a statement.

The OeVP also said the allegations must be "immediately investigated and explained".

Strache himself reacted in a Facebook post in which he confirmed the raid had taken place, describing the allegations as baseless and "yet another political attack on my person".

Strache, who is still an FPOe member but no longer holds any party positions, is already under investigation over hidden camera recordings that were made on the resort island of Ibiza in 2017.

Those showed him appearing to offer public contracts in return for campaign help to a fake Russian backer.

Thomas Drozda of the Social Democrats called on Austrians to not vote OeVP or FPOe in September's election, saying the latest probe showed that "selling Austria apparently was part of the daily routine" under the two parties' previous coalition.

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