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Amon examinations to start

Viennese state prosecutors got the green light to investigate against Werner Amon.

A juridical committee rejected the People’s Party (ÖVP) parliament member’s appeal to withdraw the case from the Viennese prosecution. Amon is suspected of money laundering. An agency once headed by lobbyist Peter Hochegger transferred 10,000 Euros to the Federal Workers’ and Employees’ Association (ÖAAB) in 2007. At that time, Amon acted as general secretary of the organisation which is currently headed by ÖVP Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. Prosecutors asked the parliament for permission to examine the occurrences. MPs lifted the ÖVP member’s immunity as a consequence.

Amon said the money – which came from Telekom Austria (TA) – was registered as compensation for the expenses of a magazine published by the ÖAAB. He admitted that no precise action could be linked to the sum – a statement which created rumours that TA tried to disguise its subsidisation of the ÖVP. The telecommunication technology company’s former chiefs might have had hopes to benefit from the transactions. Opposition politicians think that the ÖVP changed laws to the benefit of the market leader because of the financial support.

Amon denied any wrongdoing but wanted another prosecuter's office but the Viennese one to examine the ÖAAB expenditure controversy. He claimed that prosecutors of Vienna might act in a biased way following his criticism regarding the case of Natascha Kampusch. Amon heads the ÖVP’s team in a parliamentary commission investigating the police’s work in clarifying the kidnapping case. Kampusch was abducted at the age of 10 on her way to school in Vienna in 1998. She managed to escape Wolfgang Priklopil – who locked her up in a basement chamber of his house in Strasshof an der Nordbahn near Vienna – eight years later.

The parliamentary committee was set up after former judges and other experts accused the police of having acted sloppily in trying to find Kampusch. They also alleged that high-ranking representatives of the Austrian police force tried to cover up mistakes in investigations while some people commenting on the case claimed that police officials kept quiet about possible accomplices of Priklopil. The parliament’s Kampusch case commission is still investigating but Amon caused a stir by describing the theory as highly likely. The ÖVP MP said it was obvious that the money laundering investigations had to do with his criticism of the work of those in charge of the Kampusch examinations.

ÖVP head Michael Spindelegger said he had full trust in Amon but also made clear that the MP might have to answer the one or other open question regarding the ÖAAB case. ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf attacked Amon’s critics and accused them of waging a campaign against him. Kopf emphasised that Amon – who attempted to start abuse of office investigations against the Viennese state prosecution – would not be removed from power by the ÖVP board.

Amon not only heads the conservative party’s Kampusch committee delegation. He is also the leader of the team representing the government party in the recently established anti-corruption panel. The commission was set up to find out whether ex-TA managers engaged in the illicit subsidisation of political parties via promotion agencies and lobbying groups. The panel headed by Greens MP Gabriela Moser interviewed ex-Freedom Party (FPÖ) MP Walter Meischberger, former Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach, ex-ÖVP Interior Minister Ernst Strasser among others in the past weeks.

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