Austrian Far-Right Party Must Repay Funds – Court
Austrian court
VIENNA- Reuters

Austria’s far-right BZO party must repay nearly 1 million euros ($1.33 million) it got in illicit financing from Telekom Austria officials, a Vienna court ruled while convicting four people in the influence-peddling case.

The court cleared Telekom Austria ex-deputy chief executive Rudolf Fischer of wrongdoing, saying he had authorised payments but did not deliberately take part in the scheme, the Austria Press Agency reported.

But a former lobbyist for the company, two BZO officials and an advertising agency employee were sentenced to up to two-and-a-half years for their roles.

The verdict early on Saturday came in the fourth in a slew of corruption investigations concerning Telekom Austria, which local media have dubbed the “political ATM”.

Corruption remains rife in Austrian public life, where many deals are done on the back of friendships and favours, although a new generation of prosecutors and politicians in the Alpine republic is trying to change this culture.

 The defendants in this Telekom Austria case were charged with various combinations of breach of trust, money-laundering and falsifying testimony to a parliamentary committee. No current company official were involved.

Prosecutors said the company made 960,000 euros in payments, which appeared in accounts as fees for reports but in fact were channelled via ad agencies to Joerg Haider’s BZO party, then part of a coalition government, to help finance its 2006 election campaign.

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