Former Austrian Chancellor Kurz charged for making false statements

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Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is facing charges of providing false information during a parliamentary investigation into alleged corruption within his initial government, which faced a collapse in 2019, according to statements from prosecutors on Friday.

The state court in Vienna received an indictment against Kurz, with his former chief of staff, Bernhard Bonelli, and another individual, as confirmed by the corruption investigation office. Kurz is scheduled to stand trial on October 18.

The charges stem from a probe initiated in 2021, during Kurz’s tenure as chancellor, focusing on his testimony within a parliamentary inquiry centred on alleged corruption during the coalition government he led from 2017. This coalition was formed between his conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, which collapsed in 2019.

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Kurz’s decision to dissolve the government followed the emergence of a video depicting the then Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, seemingly offering favours to a purported Russian investor.

In the context of the corruption case, Kurz is accused of providing inaccurate testimony in June 2020 regarding his involvement in establishing a holding company named OeBAG, responsible for managing the state’s interests in certain enterprises, as well as the appointment of its leadership. The charge of offering false testimony carries a potential prison sentence of up to three years.

Kurz maintains his innocence, a position he reiterated earlier on Friday through a series of posts on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), in anticipation of the charges.

“The allegations are false and we are looking forward to the truth finally coming to light and the accusations also turning out to be unfounded in court,” he wrote. He said it was “unsurprising” that prosecutors had decided to file charges “despite 30 exonerating witness statements.”

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Several months after the downfall of his initial government, Kurz returned to power in a new coalition alongside the environmentalist Greens in early 2020.

He resigned as chancellor in October 2021 to address a political crisis arising from the announcement by prosecutors he was under investigation for alleged bribery and breach of trust.

In a second case, Kurz and his close associates were accused of attempting to secure his ascension to leadership within his party and the country through manipulated polls. Kurz assumed leadership of the Austrian People’s Party and became chancellor in 2017.

Shortly after stepping down, Kurz declared his departure from the political arena paving the way for Karl Nehammer.

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