Austrian ex-vice chancellor acquitted in corruption trial

Former Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was acquitted Friday in a corruption trial, the second he has faced since a scandal surrounding him brought down the country’s government in 2019.

Strache was accused of procuring a post on the supervisory board of Asfinag, a government-owned company that manages Austria’s highway system, for businessman Siegfried Stieglitz in exchange for donations to an organization close to the politician’s far-right Freedom Party.

The Vienna state court acquitted both Strache and Stieglitz, citing insufficient evidence, the Austria Press Agency reported. Strache said afterward he was “grateful and relieved that the false accusations could be disproven over the course of the trial … and that there was an acquittal.”

Strache was the central figure in the fall in 2019 of an Austrian government made up of then-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative party and the Freedom Party.

In May 2019, a video emerged showing Strache, the Freedom Party’s leader at the time, offering favors to a purported Russian investor. The recording prompted Kurz to pull the plug on the national government. Strache, who denied any wrongdoing, was later kicked out of the Freedom Party.

In a separate court case last year, Strache was convicted of corruption for trying to change laws to favor a private hospital in exchange for donations to his party. He was handed a 15-month suspended prison sentence.

Douglas Mateo

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