An investigatory committee established Wednesday, January 22, by the ÖVP-Greens majority has been directed to look into possible corruption between the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and Casinos Austria. What the committee will actually investigate, however, is still a matter of debate.
This summer, two scandals rocked Austrian politics and the FPÖ along with its then party leader Heinz Christian Strache were center stage for both. First came the Ibiza scandal in May 2019, when then vice-chancellor Strache was caught on film offering political favors in exchange for Russian money. The scandal caused the collapse of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government and triggered a snap election in September in which the ÖVP once again emerged victorious, this time in a coalition with the Green party.
Casinos Austria and Novomatic
Then in August, a second affair involving Casinos Austria came to light, when an anonymous whistleblower provided evidence of possible corruption by the FPÖ and gambling company Novomatic. The evidence indicated that the party had offered political promises in return for the appointment of FPÖ insider Peter Sidlo to Novomatic-subsidiary, Casinos Austria.
Now, an investigatory committee meant to probe the Ibiza scandal has been shifted to this second Casinos scandal and the possible reform of gambling laws, when the initial motion for an “Ibiza Ausschuss” filed by the SPÖ and NEOS did not pass. However the mission of the new committee, say the SPÖ and NEOS, has been heavily redacted in favor of the ÖVP.
SPÖ party leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner accused the ÖVP-Green coalition of limiting the committee’s investigating powers by removing ÖVP-sensitive topics from the agenda – in particular the Ibiza scandal and party finance reform, which they consider essential in wake of revelations that the ÖVP spent over twice the campaign limit in the 2019 snap election cycle.
Contesting the new motion’s legality in the Constitutional Court, the SPÖ and NEOS hope to reinstate the deleted topics on the agenda.
(Foto: Wikimedia Commons/KarlGruber, Unsplash)