Correspondent in Berlin
The scandalous ‘Ibiza Case’, which set off the coalition of Austrian conservatives in Sebastian Kurz with the extreme right of the FPÖ, he has ended up with a fifteen-month unconditional prison sentence for Heinz-Christian Strache, for having favored a private clinic in exchange for 10,000 euros destined to finance his party and a paid vacation in Greece that he personally enjoyed. The then Austrian vice chancellor and leader of the FPÖ was recorded with a hidden camera in a villa in Ibiza, while the fake niece of a fake Russian tycoon exchanged favors from the Austrian government in exchange for money. It was a trap concocted by the media, after which prosecutors continued to pull the thread. “The chronology of the events leaves no room for doubt,” declared the magistrate Claudia Moravec-Loidolt, “And the benefits received are irrefutable.”
Strache has denied the allegations until the last day of the trial. “I have never received favors in my life, I acted out of conviction,” he has insisted over and over again, but the court has considered proven that he helped the friend who owns a private clinic to make a change in the law beneficial to his business and that, In return, various donations flowed to the FPÖ, whose president was Strache at the time. Strache’s friend, the businessman Walter Grumbmuller, has been sentenced for his part to twelve months of probation for bribery. The sentences are not yet final.
They will appeal the sentence
The focus of the process was on the entrepreneur’s efforts to gain access to the hospital financing fund for his private beauty clinic in Vienna. Inclusion in the fund facilitates compensation for medical services. In return, he donated a total of 12,000 euros in 2016 and 2017 to the FPÖ, which was still in opposition at the time. He also invited Strache to the island of Corfu. The clinic finally had access to the fund in 2018, after Strache became vice chancellor. The defendants allege that the facts are unrelated and will appeal the sentence.
This case definitely twisted Strache’s political destiny, the all-powerful FPÖ president and vice chancellor, who had to resign from all his government and party positions after the video recorded two years earlier was released in May 2019. Later, when his mobile phone was confiscated, compromising text messages appeared that have been used as evidence. Strache denied having set foot in Corfu or having knowledge of the donations, but during the course of the trial, evidence also emerged that Strache had misappropriated more than half a million euros of FPÖ funds to finance his lifestyle, during the 14 years he was in charge of the party, which has earned him ostracism by his former political colleagues. Expelled from political training, he tried to run again on his own in the Austrian general elections in October 2020, but did not obtain enough votes to achieve parliamentary presence. The FPÖ, already out of government and damaged by the enormous publicity of the Strache case, fell from 26% obtained in the previous elections to only 16%.