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Anti-corruption law affects major events in Austria

The recent spate of corruption scandals in ministries as well as in companies associated with the federal government in Austria have had an impact on event organisers.

Before 2013, so-called "generous gifts" to office holders were common practice, including the provision of free tickets to major events.

However, a stricter anti-corruption law came into force this January.

Employees of companies that are closely linked to the federal government, such as the railway company or the postal service, are now not allowed to accept gifts worth more than 100 Euros.

Whilst this new regulation is designed to make corruption more difficult in the future, major prestigious events, such as the opera ball in Graz and the "Styrian Bauernbundball", have suffered from the effects of the anti-corruption law.

Some 80 per cent of the "guests of honour" have returned their free tickets to the "Bauernbundball" which will take place on February 8th.

Event manager Herwig Straka blames the mass refusals on uncertainty amongst guests about the new regulations. Guests who hold a public office also want to avoid being criticized for accepting free tickets. According to Straka, this type of reaction could seriously damage the event sector. Many events are financed by VIPs due to Austria’s relatively small economy, and thus, only small-scale sponsoring is possible.

Violations of the anti-corruption provisions are mostly reported anonymously and only then examined by the public prosecutor’s office. Spokesman Hans-Joerg Bacher emphasizes that it is neither the public prosecutor’s duty to investigate before a report has been made nor to spy on the guests of the events in question.

It is no wonder that people are reacting cautiously to this new law. Violations of the provision can result in 3 to 10 years in custody.

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