Dark hair, dark shoes and a white shirt – a man, in his mid-20s, is standing somewhat nervously in the digital security firm Reisswolf and observes how the shredding machines are set in motion. This was the beginning of “Schreddergate”. Captured by a surveillance camera at a digital security firm in Lower Austria May 23, the video was sent to the city magazine “Falter” by employees who suspected a connection with the Ibiza video scandal that had brought down the coalition a week earlier. The building is the headquarters of the firm Reisswolf that manages and, if requested, destroys the data of its clients.
In the surveillance video, the man introducing himself as Walter Maisinger, wants to have five hard disks shredded. But, instead of handing them over to the Reisswolf employees, he insists on (not just erasing but) “shredding” the data carriers himself. And not just once, but three times.
Unusual behavior, says Reisswolf boss
He then collects all the shredded pieces and takes them with him. He doesn’t pay the bill of €76 as Reisswolf doesn’t take cash – and disappears.
It was highly unusual behavior, confirmed the company’s boss Siegfried Schmedler later in an interview with ZIB 2. “He kept repeating that those were his hard disks and refused to give them to anybody. That has never happened before.”
But a few days later, on May 27, one of Reisswolf’s employees recognized the same man on television, walking behind Sebastian Kurz as the former chancellor was giving a statement at the political academy of the ÖVP about the vote of no confidence against him just days earlier and the dissolution of the government.
Social media manager for Sebastian Kurz
After googeling the telephone number given by “Mr. Maisinger”, Reisswolf employees found that he was a social media manager for Sebastian Kurz. As he had not paid the bill, Reisswolf-CEO Schmedler filed a report for fraud and was directed to “SOKO Ibiza”, a task force created to deal with the Ibiza affair. The investigators were immediately suspicious of the timing of the destruction of the hard disks by an ÖVP-employee so close to the release of the Ibiza video. The ÖVP denies that the shredding had anything to do with the video.
In the ZIB 2 report, general secretary Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) defended his party, saying it was only normal for data to be deleted and destroyed when there is a change of government, referring repeatedly to “dirty campaigning” against Kurz in 2017. This, he said, had been the reason why the ÖVP-employee wanted to shred the material three times. Also, he criticized the young social media manager’s behavior: “It was incorrect for the employee to give a false name and not pay the bill. He is also very sorry. He is 25 years young. He realizes now that he has made a mistake.”
Opposition remains skeptical
The opposition is unimpressed. SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner in a video message demanded a “clear and quick clarification” from the ÖVP and an “end cover-ups and silence”.
Peter Pilz (“Jetzt”) believes that former Chancellery Minister Gernot Blümel had his fingers in the pie. His speaker is said to have commissioned the destruction of the hard disks, Pilz claims, and demands a special session of the National Council to address the issue.