Austrian Times RSS FeedsLike the Austrian Times Facebook page!Follow us on Twitter!


Events for October
M T W T F S S
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Add your event FREE

Today

Videos


BurgKino

Pub Quiz everyTuesday at Johnny's Pub

Popular in Austria


Cosmo&Nanu

Insight team pair agree to hidden court show in January

Austrian court officials have agreed to a request to allow two journalists from the Sunday Times insight team to give evidence in a corruption trial by a live video link in which their faces can be seen only by the court officials and jury.

The pair will testify on 11 January in the case of the former Austrian interior minister and member of the European Parliament Ernst Strasser, 56, who is one of the MEPs accused of making changes in EU law in exchange for cash.

Sunday Times journalists Claire Newell and Jonathan Calvert were posing as lobbyists acting on behalf of hedge fund managers and offered Strasser a 100,000 annual advisor salary to help make the changes they saidf they needed.

Strasser was one of a number of MEPs secretely filmed as part of the undercover investigation in which they set up a fake lobbying firm, London based Bergman & Lynch, and offered Strasser an annual fee of 100,000 Euros for his help.

The Sunday Times said that allowing the pair to be seen in court would make it hard for them to carry out investigative work in the future.

But Austrian media criticised the decision by the court to bow to the decision to allow the pair to be hidden from the public and other journalists, given that Calvert had been in clear view in the footage the pair secretly filmed, apparently from a camera hidden somewhere on Newell, who now works for the rival Telegraph newspaper.

Edited versions of the interview were posted on You Tube but the full unedited version in which Calvert was clearly seen was shown in open court for all to see.

Mr Strasser, of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), resigned as an MEP in March 2011 saying he planned to concentrate on proving his innocence on charges he asked for an 81,000 GBP annual payment in exchange for influencing EU legislation in the European Parliament.

Strasser, who faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty when the case ends on 11 January, claims that he had realised at the start that the lobbyists were fake - but believed they were in fact secret agents working for the Americans, and he had played along in order to catch them out.

But the latest round of evidence his Austrian party colleague and the man who is the vice president of the European Parliament, Othmar Karas, said it seemed unlikely.

He said he had rarely seen an MEP put so much effort into the attempt to get changes made to the law, involving changes to investment legislation that would have benefited hedge funds.

Strasser claimed he had only made the proposal for new wording not to see it made into law, but simply to go along with the fake lobbyists, but Karas rejected this.

He said: "There was no contact or email beforehand saying that the changes he requested should not be introduced. Indeed, I have never experienced from an MP such an attempt to have a direct influence on a law."

Asked what that involved, he said there had been a total of eight phone calls and four emails between his office and that of Strasser about the subject.

He added: "It was certainly not for me clear that it was to do with an attempt to introduce something that was not eventually to become accepted on the statute books."

He also added that he had been left with a "strange feeling" about the motivation of Strasser with his request, and said that the first time he had heard Strasser believed it was secret agents was when he read it in the media – even though they are both in the ÖVP.

Strasser claimed in court that he had been warned by Austrian agents that he was under observation from American agents and added that his office had been broken into and a laptop stolen. He suspected the Americans had spied on him when he did a house swap with an American family, and he alleged that Rupert Murdoch, the Sunday Times owner, had been connected with "American Interests" that wanted to push the EU in a certain direction. But he also said Russian and French secrert services were also observing him.

The editor-in-chief of the Austrian daily newspaper the OÖNachrichten which is the local paper for Strasser is one of those watching the case with interest. Gerald Mandlbauer faces a libel case from Strasser after he wrote an editorial in which he commented that politicians needed to set themselves moral standards as well as political standards.

He said: "The investigation by the Sunday Times team was the catalyst that led to the discovery of a large number of similar political scandals here in Austria.

"Whatever the results of the criminal trial, I stand by my comments that politicians should not simply operate to the letter of the law, but should also have a moral obligation. Even if he is acquitted of charges and I lose the libel case, I stand by my comments – because I know my readers feel the same.

"The Sunday Times investigation did lead to a lot of unpleasant discoveries in the political landscape here. But at the same time, it has allowed us to clear out the stall of a lot of mess, and hopefully we will have a better standard in the future."

He added that, ironically, the Sunday Times investigation that included a video of the meetings with the minister would not have been possible in Austria because it was illegal to film anybody in secret.

He said: "In this case the British journalists really did a good job."

Three other MEPs were named in the Sunday Times "sting" operation: Romania's Adrian Severin, Slovenia's Zoran Thaler and Spain's Pablo Zalba.

They all denied wrongdoing. Mr Thaler resigned and Mr Severin was expelled from the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) bloc, but remains an independent MEP. Pablo Zalba also remains an MEP in Spain's centre-right Popular Party (PP).

In June 2011 the EU anti-fraud agency Olaf said it had found no evidence of fraud on the part of Mr Zalba and closed its investigation into him.

The case against Strasser is expected to end on 11 January.

Austrian Times


Are you on Facebook? Like the Austrian Times on Facebook and win great prizes!


Cosmo and Nanu
ORF Watch

Tag cloud:
journalists  fake  agents  Parliament  Ouml  Austrian  annual  MEPs  European  media  court  legislation  investigation  Calvert  Strasser  standards  newspaper  Zalba  lobbyists  Americans

Latest News

 

MEP caught In Brit papers Fraud Probe Jailed
A corrupt MEP caught by a British newspaper offering to propose amendments to EU laws in exchange for 100,000 euros a year has been given a three-year-jail term.

Vienna Jihad Girls Want To Come Home
The two Austrian teenage girls who became ‘poster girls’ for the jihad in Syria are now desperate to come home after getting completely disillusioned with their new lifestyles.

Mega-Station Opens
There was a festival atmosphere as Bundespresident Heinz Fischer opened Vienna's new Hauptbahnhof Friday morning.

Apple Truck Causes Traffic Jam
When 24 tonnes of apples are catapulted across a road it can only mean a jam.

Farmer Cleared Over Wolf Shooting
Furious animal rights campaigners have accused an Austrian farmer of lying after he shot dead a wolf that he claimed he thought was a fox.

Rare Bald Ibis Makes Microlight Flight To Italy
The project to introduce an extinct bird back to Europe is hailing success after successfully negotiating a new route over the Alps and training 14 Northern Bald Ibises how to fly south to winter feeding grounds in southern Tuscany.

Pat On The Back From Manure Explosive
A traffic cop in Austria got more than he bargained for after a booby trap covered him head-to-toe in manure as he was trying to catch people speeding.

Viennese Jihad Girl May Have Been Killed
Austrian police say that one of the two attractive young teenage girls who fled the country to go to Syria to fight on the side of Islamic rebels may have been killed.

Perversion of a Medical Dream
The Decline and Fall of the Otto Wagner Hospital, Vienna.

Fat Can Be Used To Burn Off Weight After New Patent Unveiled
It is being hailed as a sensation after scientists at an Austrian university patented a method that transforms fat storing cells into mini factories capable of actually destroying fat by burning it off.

 


Mala Vrata

The most popular stories –
last 7 days



Don't moan alone, the Ombudsman Investigates.

Why suffer in silence. Let off steam by letting our readers share your troubles. File your complaints about anything and everything here.

Our ombudsman David Rogers will try and help solve some of the problems from lazy civil servants through to incompetent companies – and at the very least the worst transgressors will end up in our weekly special report.


Austrian Zimmers