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Prosecutor angling to nail FP÷ man Graf

The Vienna public prosecutorís office has asked the federal parliament to lift Third President of Parliament Martin Grafís immunity.

Office spokesman Gerhard Jarosch said yesterday (Thurs) the public prosecutor wanted to charge Graf, a member of the Freedom Party (FP÷), with embezzlement and fraud while he was a manager at Business Services, a subsidiary of the Austrian Research Center (ARC), from 2003 to 2006.

The media reported today the public prosecutorís office was focussing on Grafís severance payment of 220,000 Euros and bonus of 50,000 Euros from Business Services at a time when ARC was in financial difficulty.

A draft report by the Audit Office last year claimed ARC had lost 9.6 million Euros because of sharply higher personnel costs and excessive administrative and overhead expenses.

In response, Graf said he had not yet seen the public prosecutorís letter to parliament but called the accusations "baseless." Graf said: "I was not the business chief and do not know why I am being charged. Graf added "political intrigue" might have something to do with it.

Graf declined comment on his severance pay and bonus, saying he had signed an agreement requiring him not to disclose them publicly.

Parliamentís immunity committee will have 30 days in which to decide whether to recommend the lifting of Grafís immunity. He cannot be prosecuted as long as he retains it.

Graf has been in the news lately because of accusations two of his staffers bought neo-Nazi materials on a controversial German website.

The staffers had reportedly bought T-shirts with such slogans as "Comradeship is more than a word, The left stinks and South Tyrol remains German."

Graf had to meet with Social Democrat (SP÷) President of Parliament Barbara Prammer and Peopleís Party (÷VP) Second President of Parliament Fritz Neugebauer to discuss the accusations.

That affair appears to be over, at least for the time being.

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