Austria’s Kurz Faces Charges on Testimony in Ibiza Probe

Austrian prosecutors informed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz he’s suspected of providing false testimony to a parliamentary committee formed to investigate the political scandal that toppled his former government.

Kurz said he and his chief of staff face potential charges on lying to lawmakers probing the so-called Ibiza affair in 2019 that involved his junior coalition partner. Speaking to reporters before a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the Austrian chancellor denied wrongdoing and said he wouldn’t step down even if the investigation led to charges.

“I always answered all questions truthfully,” Kurz told reporters in Vienna, adding that he is working under the assumption that Austria’s white-collar crime prosecutors will now investigate.

A spokesman for the prosecutors confirmed the investigation into Kurz but said it was too early to say whether charges would be brought.

Prosecutors found discrepancies between Kurz’s statements in the committee and text messages between Kurz, Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel and other associates, according to a 58-page document seen by Bloomberg News that details the preliminary findings of the probe.

While Kurz stated that he was only tangentially involved in the creation of Austria’s new government holding company and the selection of its CEO and supervisory board, the messages show that Kurz was managing even small details of the process and was closely involved in drafting laws and picking personnel.

Austria’s largest ruling party has been at the center of scrutiny for its handling of the probe into corruption allegations triggered by leaked videos involving members of the far-right Freedom Party. Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel has been criticized by opposition parties for failing to immediately comply with a constitutional court order to hand over a batch of emails.

The government delivered the documents this week after a rare call from the nation’s President to comply with the order. Bluemel said the delay was due to privacy concerns for Finance Ministry workers.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.