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Illicit funding of parties might soon mean prison

The opposition wants to apply the criminal law for politicians engaging in the illegal subsidisation of their parties.

The Greens, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) welcomed such a suggestion of Günther Kräuter, the general secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). Kräuter said at the weekend that lawmakers entangled in corrupt deals like covering up the financial support of private economy companies for political movements should have to face jail in the near future. He suggested to declare the immunity they benefited from as members of parliament (MPs) as void if allegations of such kind emerged.

Herbert Kickl of the FPÖ generally welcomed the suggestions yesterday (Mon). He said politicians should not benefit from any kind of special treatment compared to other individuals in such cases. BZÖ chief Josef Bucher also spoke out in favour of treating everyone equally but expressed disagreement with Kickl in another concern.

Kickl suggested to declare the subsidisation of Austrian parties by foreign political and economic institutions as an offence. Bucher claimed such transactions must not be regarded as a criminal act. He said total transparency in such concerns was his preferred option.

Kickl’s support for a draft bill which would make financial support for Austrian parties from abroad a breach of federal law might come as a surprise to some of the FPÖ’s critics. Greens MP Peter Pilz accused the FPÖ of acting "irresponsibly" after it emerged that a delegation of FPÖ members met with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

The autocratic leader, who can rely on his strong ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, welcomed FPÖ Vienna whip Johann Gudenus and other right-wingers in Grozny some weeks ago.

Pilz said a parliamentary commission must investigate the background of the trip. He demanded from the FPÖ board to reveal whether the party financially benefited from the controversial gathering. Pilz said it seemed that the FPÖ was seeking new friendly bonds after cooperating with late Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi who met with late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider several times. Haider was also welcomed in Baghdad by late President Saddam Hussein.

Political magazines claimed that the Austrian rightist movement might have received up to 25 million Euros following the encounters altogether for its alleged attempts to improve the reputation of the disputed leaders in the West.

The government coalition of SPÖ and People’s Party (ÖVP) wants to reform the current party subsidisation law – which, according to experts, lacks Western European standards – before summer. The opposition has great doubts since the government has not yet approached them for talks about the details of a possible draft bill.

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