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Kopf promises support for anti-corruption panel

The People’s Party (ÖVP) has denied that it tries to enforce an early end to the parliamentary anti-corruption commission.

The panel headed by Greens parliamentary member (MP) Gabriela Moser is investigating the various alleged corrupt connections between politicians and businesspeople since January. It suffered a setback when the ÖVP and its government coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), vetoed a suggested list of witnesses.

The Greens, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria wanted to interrogate managers close to the ÖVP to find out how much money the party received from Telekom Austria (TA) via a lobbying agency and who was to blame for such illicit operations. The three opposition parties teamed up to call for an extraordinary meeting of the parliament. The summit took place yesterday (Tues) and ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf took the opportunity to defend his party.

Kopf rubbished allegations that the ÖVP wanted to end the anti-corruption committee’s examinations before summer. He said that "nothing will be turned off". Kopf reacted to an attack by Green MP Peter Pilz by promising that all suspected cases of corruption, fraud, abuse of office and illegal subsidisation of parties would be investigated.

Pilz alleged that the SPÖ-ÖVP government coalition was becoming increasingly nervous about their role in corrupt occurrences of the past as elections were approaching. Pilz is one of the most engaged members of the anti-corruption committee. His research got several renowned politicians and company managers in trouble. Experts are nevertheless sceptical whether the commission’s engagement will have an accelerating impact on the juridical clarification of the shady activities of ex-government members, incumbent MPs and firm chiefs.

The opposition hoped to learn more about suspicious transactions from TA to the ÖVP and organisations with strong ties to the party from ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter in parliament yesterday. The minister was flooded with questions and parliamentary requests since she represented the Republic of Austria as one of TA’s owners. The state holds 28.4 per cent of TA shares via Industry-Holding Stock Corporation ÖIAG.

Fekter told MPs that she was obliged not to comment on the most urgent speculations by law. The finance minister said clarifying whether corruption and abuse of office occurred was not her but prosecutors’ job. Ex-TA managers are accused of pouring large sums into the ÖVP via marketing agencies and lobbyists like Peter Hochegger to benefit from the party’s decisions.

The telecommunication services company’s current head, Hannes Ametsreiter, promised to fully cooperate with investigators about bringing those to justice who broke the law. But Ametsreiter is under pressure as well for being part of the executive board of TA when some of the suspected fraudulent actions took place.

Meanwhile, SPÖ and ÖVP promised to increase their efforts in getting a new anti-corruption law underway. The government parties are pressurised to create full transparency in terms of who is financially supporting them. A survey by OGM shows that 87 per cent of Austrians think that the country’s parties and all of their associated organisations should have to inform in full detail about donations of 7,000 Euros and more. Only nine per cent labelled such a regulation as too strict.

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