Heinz-Christian Strache: Ex-vice-chancellor faces corruption trial

Austrian right-wing politi­cian Heinz-Christian Strache has gone on tri­al on cor­rup­tion charges. 

The case relates to the “Ibizagate” scan­dal, which brought an end to a con­ser­v­a­tive-led coali­tion and to his stint as vice-chan­cel­lor in 2019.

It orig­i­nat­ed in a video sting that showed Mr Strache speak­ing to a woman claim­ing to be a wealthy Russian.

He appeared to hint at poten­tial­ly ille­gal dona­tions to the far-right Freedom Party, which he then led.

Mr Strache has denied wrong­do­ing, attribut­ing what he said in the video to intoxication.

But the rev­e­la­tion opened the way for a num­ber of cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions, after mobile phones belong­ing to Mr Strache and oth­er politi­cians were seized.

Arriving for the tri­al he refused to speak to jour­nal­ists and appeared ani­mat­ed in court, tak­ing notes as the pros­e­cu­tor set out the case.

Mr Strache is accused of offer­ing to change a law to help a donor to his par­ty secure pub­lic fund­ing for his pri­vate hos­pi­tal. He could face a five-year prison sen­tence if convicted.

The video, filmed secret­ly short­ly before Austria’s elec­tion in 2017, was pub­lished two years lat­er by German publications. 

It shows Mr Strache and anoth­er Freedom Party politi­cian drink­ing and talk­ing to the woman — report­ed­ly at a vil­la on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

The scan­dal trig­gered the col­lapse of the Austrian coali­tion led by the con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Party (ÖVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Mr Kurz returned to pow­er in 2020 in a coali­tion with the Greens.