Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Austrian deputy leader resigns after video shows him offering deals for donations and support

The politician calls the video an illegal political assassination

Austria's Vice-Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache of the Austrian Freedom Party resigns at a press conference as Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (L), Labour Minister Beate Hartinger-Klein (2-L), and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (R) listen. EPA
Austria's Vice-Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache of the Austrian Freedom Party resigns at a press conference as Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (L), Labour Minister Beate Hartinger-Klein (2-L), and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (R) listen. EPA

The Austrian government may be on the brink of collapse after the country’s vice chancellor stepped down after being hit by an embarrassing political scandal.

The video of Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache spanned six hours of drink-fuelled dealing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. In the footage, he reportedly offers an unnamed Russian businesswoman lucrative government contracts if she bought an Austrian newspaper and supported Mr Strache’s anti-immigration Freedom Party.

He appears to also suggest ways of funnelling money to his party via an unconnected foundation to circumvent Austrian rules on political donations.

People gather outside the office of Austria's Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache in Vienna, Austria, 18 May 2019. EPA
People gather outside the office of Austria's Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache in Vienna, Austria, 18 May 2019. EPA

On Saturday, Mr Strache stood down, throwing the future of the governing coalition into doubt. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his centre-right People's Party has yet to comment.

Standing before assembled journalists and cameras, Mr Strache said he was illegally set up in a "political assassination" but added his behaviour in the video was "stupid, irresponsible and a mistake."

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel on Friday published extracts of the covert video purportedly showing Mr Strache offering government contracts to a Russian woman purportedly interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.

In the video, the source of which the newspapers declined to reveal, Mr Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are both seen. Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel said the footage was authenticated by a forensic video expert. It couldn't be immediately independently verified.

Updated: May 18, 2019 04:50 PM

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