Austria: Former Vice Chancellor Convicted of Corruption

VIENNA (AP ) -
In this Friday, July 9, 2021 file photo former Freedom Party (FPOE) leader Heinz-Christian Strache waits for the start of a trial in a courtroom in Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, file)

 

A Vienna court has convicted former Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of corruption for trying to change laws to favor a private hospital in exchange for donations to his political party.

Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported Friday that the ex-leader of the far-right Freedom Party received a 15-month suspended prison sentence for accepting two bribes totaling 12,000 euros ($14,100).

Fellow defendant Walter Grubmueller, the owner of a private clinic in Vienna, was given a 12-month suspended sentence for bribery.

Strache, who served as vice chancellor from 2017 to 2019, and Grubmueller had pleaded not guilty to the charges. They can appeal the verdict.

Strache was the central figure in the fall of a previous Austrian government, a coalition of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party.

In May 2019, a video emerged showing Strache, the Freedom Party’s leader at the time, offering favors to a purported Russian investor. The recording prompted Kurz to pull the plug on the national government. Strache, who denied any wrongdoing, was later kicked out of the Freedom Party.

Kurz returned to power last year in a new coalition with the environmentalist Greens.