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Ibizagate: New Book Proves Allegations Against Former Freedom Party Leader Strache

Published: August 22, 2019; 14:34 · (Vindobona)

A secretly recorded video led to the fall of Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache and Deputy Leader of the Freedom Party Johann Gudenus in May. Now the journalists of the Süddeutsche Zeitung who took part in the unveiling describe what else could be seen on the Ibiza video and how Strache was tempted to behave corruptly.

Heinz Christian Strache in 2017. / Picture: © SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation - ORF-Elefantenrunde am 12.10.17 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On 17 May 2019, video recordings of delicate negotiations on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza in the summer of 2017 were made public, in which Austria's then opposition leader and later Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and the Freedom Party's parliamentary party leader Johann Gudenus showed a frightening willingness to corrupt deals with a supposed Russian oligarch.

The two politicians resigned from all their offices the very next day. The government coalition with the People's Party broke up as a result.

Strache, however, was not politically finished. He wooed indulgence by referring to his alcohol consumption that evening, spoke of a " wasted affair " and presented himself as a victim of a conspiracy.

In fact, there are questions about the backers of the bugging action, the legality of the trap they set and the context of the 6-minute film sequences that the public gets to see.

This makes it all the more important that the two journalists of the Süddeutsche Zeitung who started the scandal now presented some insights in book form.

The two journalists, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, as well as the news magazine Der Spiegel had been fed the video recorded with hidden cameras.

The book "Die Ibiza-Affäre" (published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne), contains no new sensations, but confirms the picture created in May on a broader basis and extends the state of understanding in important points.

A detailed description of the seven-hour meeting in the villa on Ibiza makes it clearer how that evening went.

There are no indications that Mr Strache's scandalous remarks might have been taken out of context.

Even the fact that Strache himself sees the book as a "rehabilitative account" cannot be upheld.

It wasn't a merry party where a few thoughtless sentences fell, but a round of negotiations in which the subject was discussed for hours how both sides could gain an advantage. A commercial advantage for the Russian against a political advantage for the Freedom Party if she invested in the Kronen-Zeitung.

The chance to bring the Kronen-Zeitung under his influence obviously exerted an irresistible attraction on Strache and let him bring the conversation into the early hours of the morning again and again on a cooperation.

The two sides did not reach an agreement. The false oligarch insisted on concrete guarantees, which Strache avoided.

Strache promised, however, that the Strabag construction company would no longer be awarded state contracts under a government he had helped to form. The resulting construction contracts may instead go to the Russian woman.

He clearly described how party donations could be concealed through the detour of non-profit associations.

Speculations that the video could show cocaine consumption as well as extensive tobacco and alcohol consumption are refuted by the book.

With reference to the protection of sources, the two journalists remain silent on many questions that remain unanswered.

The motive of the clients, who set the trap at great expense, remains in the dark.

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