After the political treatment of questions that have arisen over the past two and a half years in connection with the so-called Ibiza affair, the legal process in Austria is also making progress.

It has now become known that Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is being investigated on account of the allegation of false testimony before the Ibiza parliamentary committee of inquiry, was heard on the matter at the beginning of September.

Kurz, who is currently in New York at the UN General Assembly, had a statement circulated in which he rejects the allegations in detail.

Stephan Löwenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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The interrogation was carried out by a single judge, not by the investigating economic and corruption prosecutor's office.

Kurz, who repeatedly accused this authority of acting biased or incorrectly, was able to enforce this with reference to a provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

This requires a judicial taking of evidence if “there is a special public interest because of the importance of the criminal offense to be investigated and the person of the suspect”.

The investigations against Kurz for an offense that can be punished with imprisonment of up to three years had led to numerous demands for resignation against the Federal Chancellor.

Kurz downplays its role

In his written statement, Kurz repeats that he never intended to testify wrongly and that he did not objectively either.

In the passages in question from his testimony to the U Committee in June 2020, the main focus was on the extent to which he was involved in Thomas Schmid's appointment as head of the ÖBAG holding company in 2019.

Kurz downplayed his role in his testimony.

Chats between the two, on the other hand, give the impression that Kurz had the reins in hand.

Kurz now again refers to his statement at the time that he had definitely affirmed his involvement with the addition "involved in the sense of informed".

According to the articles of association, the decision was made by the ÖBAG supervisory board.

Therefore his statement is objectively correct.

In a similar way, Kurz also addresses the other three points on which the public prosecutor's office believes a false statement is possible, according to the communication. At one point he began an answer to the U-Committee with “Na”, but now refers to the fact that he has thereby rejected a previous allegation in a question. He did not want to untruthfully deny any facts. After reading it, he noticed that the wording could be misleading, so he wanted to correct the protocol.

Whether the questioning has corroborated the suspicion to such an extent that the public prosecutor wants to bring charges or whether the investigations will be discontinued, there are still no statements.

In any case, the decision rests with the superior authorities, ultimately with the Ministry of Justice, which is led by the Green politician Alma Zadić.

The opposition SPÖ reiterated their view that Kurz would have to resign at the latest when he was charged.

Of course, the Austrian judiciary remains preoccupied with the main and secondary strands of “Ibiza” anyway.

There are several other investigative proceedings against (former) ÖVP and FPÖ politicians, including the former FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache.

In a corruption case, he has not been convicted in the first instance and an appeal proceedings are pending.