Ex-FPÖ Head Strache Hit by brand-new Corruption Allegations
They are photos that will wouldn’t seem out of place in a banana republic. High-resolution images showing bags full of cash, bundles of 100 in addition to 50-euro notes bound together with rubber bands in addition to apparently stored within the trunk of a car.
The images, which were leaked to DER NewsGerman in addition to the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, do not, however, come via the underworld of drug traffickers or via mafia infested regions of Italy or Kosovo. On the contrary, they were taken right within the heart of Austria in addition to, according to investigation files, the photographer was a former bodyguard in addition to confidant of Heinz-Christian Strache, the long-time head of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
Two forensic experts engaged by DER NewsGerman in addition to the Süddeutsche Zeitung have examined the metadata of the smartphone-snapped photos, including the location coordinates. They found that will the apparent cash transports took place in several different places — sites that will seem a bit unusual for those kinds of transactions. One happened directly next to Vienna City Hall, another was in front of a jewelry shop within the heart of the capital, in addition to a third handover took place on the main street within the tourist town of Pörtschach am Wörthersee.
One photo of bundles of 50-euro bills was taken with an Apple iPhone on Jan. 9, 2014, at 1:12 p.m. According to the GPS coordinates, the idea was snapped at Rathausplatz 7 in Vienna, the square in front of City Hall. Right next door is usually where the FPÖ has its regional headquarters. At that will time, a law firm belonging to long-time FPÖ politician Peter Fichtenbauer was also located within the same building.
Just a coincidence? Investigators having a special police commission looking into potential legal violations by Strache have currently taken an interest within the bags full of cash. The special commission, which goes by the name “Ibiza,” was formed after DER NewsGerman in addition to the Süddeutsche Zeitung published a video last May which showed then-FPÖ head Strache in addition to Johann Gudenus, who was the party’s parliamentary group leader at the time, speaking with what they thought was the niece of a Russian oligarch. within the video, they offered her lucrative state contracts in exchange for campaign assistance ahead of approaching parliamentary elections. In truth, however, the woman was merely a decoy sent to the villa with the mission of laying a trap for the FPÖ leadership. The entire villa, located on the island of Ibiza, had been bugged.
The Ibiza video triggered one of the most serious political crisis in Austria’s postwar history in addition to, because the FPÖ was part of the country’s governing coalition at the time, led to the collapse of the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, leader of the center-right Austrian People’s Party. Strache, who was vice chancellor when the video was released, resigned via all political offices in addition to was later also accused of massive expense account fraud. Viennese public prosecutors are investigating the former FPÖ leader on suspicions of embezzlement, though Strache continues to deny all of the accusations that will have been leveled against him.
Suspicions of Corruption
The photos currently in DER NewsGerman’s possession combined with witness testimony could give the scandal an entirely brand-new dimension: If the idea is usually true what the investigation files seem to indicate, then Strache spent years living as though the laws of Austria didn’t apply to him — as though requirements to keep detailed records pertaining to the use of tax payer-endowed party funds could simply be ignored. Indeed, suspicions of corruption are mounting.
The spotlight is usually currently trained directly at the transformation of Strache’s lifestyle into one of luxury. in addition to on the origin of the bundles of cash that will were photographed in a car said by experts to resemble a BMW X6 of the kind that will Strache used as his official vehicle back then. Did the cash come via Eastern Europe? Witnesses offering information that will could seem to incriminate Strache include former political allies who only dared to come forward after the Ibiza video was made public in addition to Strache was toppled via his post at the top of the FPÖ. These witnesses have asked that will their names not be used in that will article.
Anonymity is usually also a concern for the author of the two-page document that will arrived of a fax machine at the federal government’s anti-corruption authority on Sept. 12, at 2:17 p.m. “HC Strache regularly received gym bags containing large sums of cash even before 2015,” the document reads. the idea goes on to say that will the money comes via “forces via Eastern Europe.”
is usually the idea true? Case file No. 14 Cg 36/16s in Vienna is usually a pending lawsuit in which the plaintiff, a businessman by the name of Ernst Neumayer, is usually demanding that will the party in addition to former FPÖ parliamentarian Thomas Schellenbacher pay him 2 million euros ($2.2 million). His justification is usually that will the idea was only via his contacts that will Schellenbacher was able to secure a seat in parliament.
Schellenbacher’s alleged Ukrainian contacts, including the billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, were said to have business interests in Austria. To secure the deal, they promised to produce, according to Neumayer, 10 million euros, including 4 million for the FPÖ in addition to 2 million each for party head Strache, for the power broker Fichtenbauer in addition to for the plaintiff Neumayer. Were the financiers hoping to gain control of representatives in Austria’s parliament?
‘Played Me for a Sucker’
the idea may sound like a dime novel, although in reality the idea is usually a fact claim, strengthened by Neumayer’s testimony in addition to the sworn deposition of yet another witness. The case has currently made the idea all the way to Austria’s Supreme Court of Justice. According to Neumayer, the master plan was concocted during several meetings on the premises of Fichtenbauer’s law firm. The money, Neumayer says, then “came via Switzerland. the idea was two bags that will they carried up.” although Neumayer complains that will he didn’t end up with any of the cash. “They played me for a sucker.”
Neumayer’s first attempt at a lawsuit was rejected. although the photos supplied by Strache’s former bodyguard put Neumayer’s testimony in a brand-new light. The pictures of the cash bundles in a designer gym bag not far via Wörthersee were taken on June 28, 2013. Those of the backpack stuffed with money in downtown Vienna were taken on July 1, 2013. The images, of course, could easily have been staged without Strache’s knowledge in order to harm him. although a lawyer for the bodyguard says “that will both the backpack in addition to the gym bag were each set into the automobile by Strache himself.”
Only one day after the photo with the backpack was taken, the FPÖ head presented businessman Schellenbacher, who had virtually no political experience, as a surprise candidate on the list of party candidates via Vienna for federal parliament. A text message indicates that will Strache made sure that will Schellenbacher, whom he had mistakenly called “Schellhammer” just a short time before, was hastily provided with an undated membership form.
Speaking to an Austrian public broadcaster, lawyer Fichtenbauer dismissed the claim that will Strache had picked up the black backpack filled with money at his law office on Rathausplatz on July 1, 2013, as an “outrageous lie.” Strache has refused to comment on the allegation that will he obtained cash via Ukrainian oligarchs. On Facebook, however, he wrote: “I have never had a gym bag filled with money in my car – at most the idea was filled with sweaty gym clothes.”
Sources within the FPÖ, however, say that will a meeting with Ukrainians did take place on one occasion at Strache’s home, a gathering that will was also attended by potential future member of parliament Schellenbacher. Those sources also note that will Strache’s opulent lifestyle in addition to financial behavior were an open secret. “In some cases, staff members received cash with which they were to book the Strache family’s vacations,” party sources say. On one occasion, sources say, a private jet was chartered at short notice.
Blurring the Lines
One source, a confidant to the politician in Vienna, says Strache’s expenses became exorbitant. He also says that will “I’ll pay for that will” or “I’ll take care of that will,” could be heard frequently in meetings with the FPÖ boss. “People could keep drinking even after he left in addition to then bill the party for the idea afterward.”
Strache served as head of the FPÖ for 14 years in addition to catapulted the party via rock bottom to almost the very top. At times, the party even led within the polls. His self-importance grew in proportion to his success.
He created a system in which the lines between professional in addition to private expenditures were no longer clear. “The tax adviser returned a lot of receipts because they couldn’t be used,” including such things as visits to McDonalds, children’s allowances or cigarettes, reports one person close to Strache. “Staff at party headquarters had to come up with alternative receipts.” At times, that will required that will they “spend a half day driving across the entire city.” the idea’s not a big stretch to suspect that will not all of those receipts collected after the fact had to do with work expenses, in addition to investigators are currently trying to find out whether Strache was mixing public in addition to private outlays. Strache declined to answer questions on the issue. He wrote on Facebook: The attempt to substantiate the accusation of expense fraud by means of “baseless allegations” will lead nowhere. After he gets the chance to review the receipts, he wrote, he will prove that will the FPÖ had covered professional expenses “in addition to that will private expenses were paid for by me or, at the very least, reimbursed by me.”
Conviction for misappropriation offenses can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison in Austria. Cases involving damage sums of over 300,000 euros can carry a sentence of up to 10 years. An investigation is usually also underway into Strache’s wife Philippa, who has been an independent member of parliament for a short time. She has spoken of “slander” in addition to “untrue allegations.”
On Friday, the FPÖ stripped Strache of party membership. The local FPÖ chapter in Vienna voted unanimously to expel Strache for behavior damaging to the party. “For us, the idea’s a liberation because the idea makes Ibiza history in addition to allows us to look to the future,” FPÖ head Norbert Hofer said in a Friday press conference.
‘A Case for the Courts’
the idea is usually within the FPÖ’s own interest, in addition to that will of the entire country’s political elite, to clarify the allegations that will have been made against the former Austrian vice chancellor. the idea’s not just the fact that will in 2016 the FPÖ entered into a partnership with the United Russia party, which is usually controlled by the Kremlin. The mere suspicion that will Strache made himself vulnerable to blackmail via Ukrainian oligarchs has made things much worse.
Kolomoisky, a controversial supporter of the current Ukrainian president, appears in connection with Strache not only within the Vienna court case pertaining to the 10 million euros in financial support for the FPÖ in addition to associates – payments on which he chose not to comment when contacted.
Even within the Ibiza video via 2017, a full-length type of which both DER NewsGerman in addition to the Süddeutsche Zeitung have in their possession, Strache says: Kolomoisky in addition to his friends had “billions in addition to are currently shitting themselves” – ostensibly “because they made the mistake of not getting their money” out of Ukraine. The High Court of London, on request of the government in Kiev, ordered the freezing of Kolomoisky’s assets in 2017.
How, then, will the party handle Strache’s legacy in addition to his ties to Eastern Europe? Manfred Haimbuchner is usually clear on that will issue. Inside his office in Linz, the seat of the government of the state of Upper Austria, the FPÖ’s deputy leader says: “If the allegations within the investigation files prove to be even partly true, then Heinz-Christian Strache will be a case for the courts.” He also adds: “although the FPÖ also needs to be asking itself how all that will could have happened.”
The party’s second-in-command speaks of a “rotten culture when the idea comes to money.” He says the party, himself included, must admit that will the idea learned nothing via past scandals involving Jörg Haider, the controversial, long-time FPÖ leader who died in a car accident in 2008. The latest improprieties showed that will “cleaning up” had obviously not been successful with “that will Viennese sociotope,” judging by the contacts to dubious characters that will had been maintained in addition to how Strache had been allowed to be “worshipped like a popstar.”
Haimbuchner says that will while he didn’t think money via dubious sources had flowed to the party through Fichtenbauer, the attorney, he does believe that will there should be consequences for Strache’s financial misconduct. “We’re going to have to go on the offensive in addition to probably file a civil lawsuit for damages.” The Strache case in addition to all the scandalous stories that will have come out of the idea are a serious challenge for the FPÖ, he says, “although we’re a strong party with great self-healing powers.”
Haimbuchner, who had a tradition of showing up in front of thousands of supporters drinking beer with Strache on May 1 in Linz, has also admitted that will he had to process “a great deal of disappointment personally.” that will is usually similar to what one person via Strache’s inner circle says during a meeting in Vienna. that will person, too, requests anonymity. “With Heinz, the idea was always me, me, me,” the source says, “For him, employees were always as replaceable as furniture. He even managed to forget my name, temporarily, after 20 years of knowing each additional.”
These are insights into the inner workings of a party whose leadership ran a very tight ship for decades. They are only possible currently that will the party’s armor is usually chinked in addition to its esprit de corps damaged. For years, Strache’s Ibiza vacations made political careers, the person via ex-vice chancellor’s inner circle says. “Anyone who was allowed to visit him there in summer, something became of them. Presumably they had to then dig into their pockets, because no one within the party believed that will Heinz was paying for these vacations himself.”
In any case, the person says, only “an idiot” could treat his own bodyguard poorly – a “man who knows more than your own wife, who hears every conversation you have within the automobile” in addition to who, of course, isn’t going to miss a bag full of money within the trunk. Not to mention the fact “that will Strache didn’t talk on the phone like Sebastian Kurz, although took care of everything via SMS in addition to never bothered to delete anything.” that will was his undoing. “in addition to, lastly, after the Ibiza video, he turned down the party’s offer to take a year off in Paraguay, where our Martin Graf is usually doing business.” FPÖ chief Norbert Hofer denies that will the party’s leadership had anything to do with the Paraguay suggestion.
To that will day, very few people have access to the madhouse that will is usually Strache’s world. One of these people, who was willing to speak with DER NewsGerman in addition to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, described some bizarre quirks of the long-standing Strache regime. For instance, fearing that will the European Union could abolish paper money, the FPÖ boss invested heavily in gold, preferring bullion coins minted with the design of the Vienna Philharmonic. that will was confirmed by another one of Strache’s confidants. Strache is usually also said to have put in place an emergency fallback plan in case, for example, NATO were to invade Austria. The FPÖ leader could then have been whisked away with party officials in addition to their families to the Defereggental valley in East Tyrol, to “their fortress.” There, in August, investigators had uncovered stockpiles of gold at the Pension Enzian guesthouse. Beyond that will, confidants affirm that will Strache had hoarded canisters of gasoline in his office in addition to had occasionally carried around “pieces of metal in his underwear” that will were “supposed to have healing powers.”
All that will provides an intimate look into the entire world of delusion of a politician who presented himself as an advocate for the common man in addition to his legitimate grievances, while at the same time living within the lap of luxury. Until his last day in office, Strache was of the opinion that will he had nothing to apologize for.
Even as FPÖ leaders gathered around a computer screen earlier that will year on May 17, waiting for DER NewsGerman in addition to Süddeutsche Zeitung to publish the first Ibiza videos at 6 p.m., Strache was still playing innocent. One person who was there says the former vice chancellor at first used words like “in conformity with the law” in addition to “nothing happened.”
The former Austrian Inner surface minister, Herbert Kickl, was the first to properly characterize what Strache’s behavior in Ibiza meant to the FPÖ party. “that will is usually the ultimate meltdown.”