In Austria, the corruption prosecutor's office has set another bang and arrested a former federal minister.

As was announced on Thursday, "a person was arrested because of the risk of committing a crime and the risk of collusion".

Austrian media unanimously reported that it was the former family minister, Sophie Karmasin, who, nominated by the Christian Democratic ÖVP, was in office between 2013 and 2017.

She is said to have been involved in the construction with which opinion polls were paid for by the Ministry of Finance in the interests of the ÖVP or its former chairman Sebastian Kurz and published in a partly doctored way.

Because of this affair, Kurz was forced to resign in autumn 2021.

He is under investigation

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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A statement by a former employee, Sabine Beinschab, seems to have been decisive for Karmasin's arrest.

Karmasin ran an opinion research institute, but after taking office as minister she gave it up and Beinschab became self-employed.

Cell phone chats by a former tax office top official with Beinschab, Karmasin and Kurz's political entourage via an "Austria-Beinschab tool" suggest that the partisan political purpose was veiled in the bills.

Created souped-up polls?

Last week, a record of Beinschab's interrogation was quoted in the media from the files.

Accordingly, she is said to have confessed and offered to be a key witness against Karmasin.

She recorded – even as a minister – 20 percent of sales.

In addition, Karmasin had previously created souped-up polls for the SPÖ – which was rejected there.

Kurz feels relieved by Beinschab's statement that she hardly knew him and never spoke to him about the surveys.

The public prosecutor's office is investigating, among other things, breach of trust, bribery, agreements restricting competition in the procurement process and money laundering.

The weekly newspaper "Falter" published the arrest order of the corruption prosecutor's office on Twitter.

In it, Karmasin is referred to as the "originator and authoritative source of ideas regarding the 'development' of the 'Beinschab-Österreich-Tool'" with reference to "previous evidence".

Karmasin's criminal acts would have stretched "according to the urgent suspicion over more than five years", she was "leading" involved and had committed "crimes with various creative circumvention agreements and cover-up transactions for her own benefit and to the detriment of the Republic of Austria in particular". .

The arrest was necessary because of the risk of concealment.

Illegal collusion in procurement procedures

Karmasin is said to have staged anti-competitive and therefore illegal agreements in several procurement procedures until mid-2021, which was not previously known.

According to the arrest warrant, after her time as a minister, when she was back in her original job, she was awarded three studies advertised by the Ministry of Sports for her institute.

Between May 2019 and mid-2021, she is said to have used Sabine Beinschabs again by asking her to send her content-related offers to the client to ensure that she would get the orders herself, according to the arrest order .

Meanwhile, the committee of inquiry into “ÖVP corruption” continued its surveys on Thursday.

After the ÖVP chairman Karl Nehammer and the entrepreneur Alexander Schütz, who were invited to provide information on Wednesday, the former Greens politician and later member of parliament should have their own list, Peter Pilz, and the finance ministry official Eduard Müller, who was also in the "civil servants' cabinet" in the meantime acted as a minister, answering questions.

Above all, Pilz brought in chats from a former Interior Ministry official who is considered to be closely linked to the ÖVP.

The chats sent to Pilz indicate close political agreements in the allocation of posts – however, the ÖVP also wants to see the allocation of posts based on SPÖ wishes in the committee.

At the same time, the ÖVP is trying, as the surveys show, to block all questions about party politics: Parliament can only control the behavior of the executive.

This dispute shaped the first day of the U-Committee.

A rules of procedure marathon on Wednesday prevented Chancellor Nehammer from being questioned in detail about his time as former ÖVP General Secretary and Minister of the Interior.

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