AUSTRIA’s coalition government is in ruins after its far-right vice-chancellor was caught soliciting bribes in a clandestine sting in Ibiza.
Heinz-Christian Strache was secretly filmed in a luxury villa offering a Russian woman posing as an oligarch’s niece state contracts in exchange for political funding.
Filmed in July 2017, before he took power, he was recorded telling her he wanted Austria to turn away from the West and repair its relations with Russia.
When informed she had a “not entirely legal” fortune to invest in Austria, he told her to buy the country’s biggest tabloid then switch its political stance to support him.
In return, Strache advised the woman to set up a road-building company so he could award her motorway construction contracts.
Taking place in a £1,000-a-night hotel room with Strache surrounded by cigarettes and vodka, the set-up bore hallmarks of a Russian spy operation, though it remains unknown who was behind it.
‘ALCOHOL-INDUCED MACHO TALK’
The publication of the footage has triggered the collapse of the country’s ruling coalition with Sebastian Kurz, the conservative chancellor, now facing a no-confidence vote.
Strache resigned the morning after its publication, blaming his comments on “alcohol-induced macho talk” and railing against his “targeted political assassination”.
Kurz officially pulled the plug on his 17-month-old coalition with the FPO over the weekend.
Strache, whose party has been one of the most successful nationalist movements in Europe, securing more than a quarter of the vote, denies doing anything illegal.
But Kurz has pledged a thorough investigation into any wrongdoing, and said on Monday he would ask President Alexander Van der Bellen to sack the FPO’s interior minister, Herbert Kickl, because as FPO chairman in 2017 he was responsible for party finances.
However, the FPO has reacted by withdrawing all its ministers from the coalition, throwing the government into chaos.
Kurz is now at risk of seeing his caretaker government losing office entirely.
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Kickl told the newspaper Oesterreich: “It would be almost naive for Kurz to assume that we, the FPO, have no distrust of him following his distrust in us.
“Whenever the extraordinary session happens, those who give trust receive trust and those who give distrust get distrust.”
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