Vienna (dpa) – The Austrian judiciary is investigating Chancellor Sebastian Kurz over possible false statements to the parliament’s committee of inquiry on Ibiza. The head of government announced this on Wednesday.
The investigations, which have been initiated by opposition parties, are increasing pressure on Kurz and his conservative ÖVP. In connection with the investigation committee, the Minister of Finance and short-lived confidant Gernot Blümel have been at the center of the public prosecutor’s office for months.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office for affairs and corruption confirmed the German news agency’s investigation against Kurz and his private secretary Bernhard Bonelli. Various reports have been received about this, including from the liberal Neos party, the spokesman said. The Ibiza Commission of Inquiry highlights alleged postal haggling and the possible influence of party donations on political decisions at the time of the government of the ÖVP and the right-wing FPÖ, which was in office from December 2017 to May 2019.
According to the ad from Neos, who received the DPA, the Chancellor and his Chief of Staff in the committee denied that political agreements had been made on the appointment of short confidant Thomas Schmid as head of the state holding ÖBAG. According to the Neos, the prosecutor has chat logs that prove otherwise. Some reports from Kurz, Schmid and Blümel have leaked to the Austrian media. They give the impression that the ÖVP was certain of Schmid’s future role – and that a few months before the independent ÖBAG supervisory board took the personnel decision in March 2019.
In short, journalists said he could not imagine conviction “with the best of will.” He always tried to answer questions in Parliament truthfully. He criticized the fact that the inquiry commission was trying to change words and “somehow force people to make a false statement”.
The sole purpose of the opposition’s messages is “to get him out of office by any means,” Kurz said Wednesday evening in the ORF news program “ZiB2”. He sees no reason to resign. “I have been elected by the voters and will continue to do my job undaunted,” Kurz said on “heute.at”.
The Social Democratic SPÖ called on Kurz to resign should he be charged. “An accused chancellor can no longer hold office and must face the consequences,” said SPÖ MP Jörg Leichtfried. The opposition also accused the ÖVP of using false testimony and other tactics to obstruct the work of the inquiry commission. Minister Blümel of Finance had only delivered the requested files to parliament last week after Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and the Constitutional Court had put pressure on him. In addition, Blümel is under investigation for possible corruption with regard to the Novomatic gaming group. Blümel has denied the allegations.
Kurz also resisted sending emails from the Chancellery to the Commission of Inquiry for weeks. On Wednesday, however, the Constitutional Court announced that “the Chancellor’s entire e-mailboxes” should be sent to Parliament from the end of 2017 to the end of 2019.
The committee is named after the so-called Ibiza video, in which former FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache was prone to corruption and spoke of questionable donations.