One year after the publication of the video recorded in Ibiza by the then FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache, the committee of inquiry into the Ibiza affair started its work on Thursday. He is supposed to investigate the “presumed buyability of the turquoise-blue government” from the ÖVP and FPÖ, as it is stated in the investigation order. The release of the video triggered a government crisis that ultimately broke the coalition.
That’s what the Ibiza affair was about
The video, which was secretly recorded in a finca in Ibiza a few months before the National Council elections, shows the then FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache and the party’s club chairman at the time in the National Council, Johann Gudenus, in secret negotiations with the alleged niece by the Russian oil and gas entrepreneur Igor Makarov. The woman, who called herself Aljona Makarowa, said that she could provide several hundred million euros in investments.
In the recording, Strache and Gudenus talk to her about large investments and indirect donations to the FPÖ through party-related associations. Strache offered her government contracts if his right-wing conservative party made it to the government in the National Council elections. A possible takeover of the Austrian Kronen-Zeitung with the aim of FPÖ-friendly reporting is also part of the conversation.
In his declaration of resignation from the office of Vice Chancellor on May 18, Strache had admitted that he wanted to brag about the evening in Ibiza, but denied any donations mentioned to the FPÖ and its close associations: “There were and are no illegal and illegal ones for me Events, including no actions in this regard ”.
Start with statements by Strache and Gudenus
In 42 days of the survey, the committee of inquiry now wants to clarify how much truth is behind the statements of the former FPÖ top politicians in the video and whether there was corruption, unfaithfulness and abuse of office in the later government of the ÖVP and FPÖ. In particular, the focus is on the distribution of items and any benefits in return for party donations.
Statements by Strache and Gudenus are expected on the first day of the trial. The full video, which was found at the end of April by the so-called “Special Commission Tape”, is to be shown in the committee in two weeks at the earliest.
Until the summer break, the casino affair will be the subject of alleged agreements on the appointment of the CFO of the part-state Casinos Austria to an FPÖ politician. The public prosecutor is currently examining whether there were political favors in the cast, for example in the form of licenses for the gaming company Novomatic, which is intertwined with Casinos Austria. The CFO in question has already been removed.
The richest Austrians are invited
In addition to Strache and Gudenus, the committee invited around 30 people:
- Florian Klenk, Editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper “Falter”, who knows the entire video, should testify on the first day of the session.
- The following day, the billionaire named in the video Johann Graf, Founder of the gaming company Novomatic, and department store heiress Heidi Horten and weapon manufacturers Gaston Glock statement. The three witnesses canceled the appointment in front of the committee for health reasons because they belong to the corona risk group.
- Real estate investor René Benko, whose Signa group is owned by the department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, is also to appear before the committee until the summer break.
- Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) is invited for June 24th.
- Also the FPÖ club chairman Norbert Hofer, the former finance minister Hertwig Löger (ÖVP) and the acting finance minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) should testify.
Strache had named Benko in the Ibiza video as a donor to FPÖ-related clubs and also Horten, Glock and Graf as the party financiers. Everyone denied the claim. Strache had withdrawn his statements after the video became known.
Recently there has also been controversy about the role of Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), chairman of the committee and president of the National Council. The leader of the liberal party NEOS, Stephanie Krisper, accuses him of being biased because he has “numerous problematic relationships” with people who should answer questions in the committee of inquiry, including employees of the gaming giant Novomatic. Sobotka and the ÖVP rejected the allegation, the party also asked for an apology.
Strache and Gudenus do that today
Strache and Gudenus are no longer in contact today. Strache was expelled from the FPÖ in December. On October 11, however, he wants to run for the Vienna Mayor Election with three other breakaway FPÖ MPs with “Team HC Strache – Alliance for Austria” as the top candidate.
Gudenus, on the other hand, has withdrawn from politics and is now working on his own company. “It is about advice in the strategic area, political-economic networks and, among other things, real estate. I am also trying to support start-ups, such as a new app that will be released soon, ”said Gudenus in an interview with the Kronen Zeitung.