Former Austrian leader charged with giving false evidence to an inquiry

Charges result from an investigation that was launched in 2021 when Kurz was still chancellor.

Kurz Austria
Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is set to go on trial in October [File: Visar Kryeziu/AP]

Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been charged with making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into a scandal that brought down his first government, prosecutors said on Friday.

An indictment against Kurz, his former chief of staff, Bernhard Bonelli, and another unidentified person was filed at the state court in Vienna, the prosecutor’s office that investigates corruption cases said in a statement.

The court said Kurz will go on trial on October 18.

The charges result from an investigation that was launched in 2021 when Kurz was still chancellor.

It centres on his testimony to a parliamentary probe that focused on alleged corruption in his first government, a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party which collapsed in 2019.

Kurz pulled the plug on that government after a video surfaced showing the vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader at the time, Heinz-Christian Strache, appearing to offer favours to a purported Russian investor.

In the corruption case, Kurz is accused of giving false evidence regarding his role in setting up a holding company, OeBAG, which administers the state’s role in some companies.

In the committee, Kurz had in June 2020 downplayed his role in the appointment of the head of the state-owned holding company, Thomas Schmid. He had been informed about the decision in advance but had not been involved further, according to his statement at the time.

Based on chat messages, however, the public prosecutor’s office assumes that the former head of government was very much involved in the choice of staff.

Kurz and Schmid appear to have regularly exchanged views on the subject from mid-2017 at the latest.

Kurz has always vehemently denied the accusations.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the range of punishment for the offence charged is up to three years in prison.

Source: News Agencies