Former Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz convicted of false statements, given suspended sentence

By Stephanie Liechtenstein The Associated Press |

VIENNA (AP) — Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was convicted Friday of making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption in his first government. He was given an eight-month suspended sentence.

The verdict at the Vienna criminal court followed a four-month trial. The case marked the first time in more than 30 years that a former Austrian chancellor had stood trial.

The case centered on Kurz’s testimony to an inquiry that focused on the coalition he led from 2017, when his conservative Austrian People’s Party formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, until its collapse in 2019.

Prosecutors accused the 37-year-old of having given false evidence in June 2020 regarding his role in the setting up of a holding company, OeBAG, which administers the state’s role in some companies, and the appointment of his former close confidant Thomas Schmid to its leadership.

Judge Michael Radasztics found Kurz guilty of making false statements about the appointment of the company’s supervisory board, though not about that of Schmid.

Kurz stood motionless as Radasztics announced the verdict to a packed courtroom. His lawyer later said he would appeal the verdict.

Once a rising star among conservatives in Europe, Kurz resigned in 2021 after a separate corruption probe opened and has since left politics. However, his People’s Party continues to lead the government under current Chancellor Karl Nehammer. The party is currently trailing in polls ahead of a national election expected in September, and the Kurz verdict could put it under more pressure.

In his closing statement, prosecutor Gregor Adamovic said Kurz had “actively” supported Schmid with the aim of handing OeBAG’s leadership to his preferred candidate, and contended that it was clear the then-chancellor signed off on all the candidates for the company’s board.

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