Excerpts from a sealed court document released by the Vienna Prosecutor’s Office have revealed an alleged assassination attempt on disgraced ex-Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.
The document, dated October 2018 and delivered last week to the Austrian daily Kurier, describes a thwarted plan to kill Strache using a car bomb. A witness, referred to as “V-Mann (“Verbindungsmann”, or liaison”), told authorities that a Kosovar-Albanian Bujar B. had offered him “100,000 euros” to plant the bomb and carry out the attack . “He knew where [Strache’s] family parked their cars,” V-Mann said, “and what time his vehicle was left unattended.”
Following a 2018 arrest of Bujar B. for drug dealing and possession of an illegal firearm, V-Mann disclosed Bujar B’s bombing plan to authorities, according to a “trustworthy source” from the Prosecutor’s Office, allowing them to intervene before it could be carried out. In his deposition, “V-Mann” described how he had been approached by Bujar B. multiple times with offers of large sums of money, amid claims of a connection in Kosovo who “specialized in making car bombs for €25,000 a piece.”
Strache himself “didn’t hear about [it] until the 4th of April,” the former vice chancellor’s lawyer, Johann Pauer, told Kurier. “After contacting the authorities, [Strache] was advised not to take these threats too seriously. He is therefore even more shocked to find out about the current investigation.”
Strache voiced his frustration over Facebook: “Apparently an alleged radical Islamist planned to have me killed last year while I was still Vice-Chancellor, and the intelligence service didn’t even notify me! Which authorities are at work here? What kind of irresponsibility is this? This is very alarming!”. Other FPÖ officials have yet to make public responses.
Strache was Vice-Chancellor of Austria until May when a 2017 video surfaced showing him and now former deputy leader of the FPÖ Johann Gudenus promising lucrative state contracts and other access, providing irrefutable evidence of corrupt political practices involving international donors to the FPÖ. Dubbed the Ibiza-affair, the video led to the collapse of the ÖVP/FPÖ Austrian governing coalition.
“Completely absurd and fabricated”
As inquiries continue, speculation about a motive has taken two directions: The first, based on B’s alleged visits to a mosque classified as “radicalized” by the Wiener Landesamts für Verfassungsschutz (The Vienna Regional Office for the Protection of the Constitution). Strache’s party, the far-right FPÖ, has for years warned of the “Islamicization” in Austria, which may have provoked retaliation.
The second theory is based on B.’s Albanian-Kosovan roots and his support for an independent Kosovo. Police found a picture on B.’s phone showing him in front of a memorial to the Kosovo Liberation Army, an Albanian-nationalist paramilitary organization that fought for the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia and Serbia in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Strache has consistently supported Serbia, telling the Belgrade-based newspaper Politika in 2018 that “Kosovo is without a doubt a part of Serbia”, while heavily criticizing Austria’s recognition of Kosovo.
“These accusations against my client are completely absurd and fabricated,” said Bujar B’s attorney Wolfgang Blaschitz. “He has a history of petty crime, but a terrorist he is not. He never had any problems with Strache, so there is no evidence for a motive.” Blaschitz is considering suing V-Mann for defamation.
Further developments in the investigation are expected to be forthcoming.