He was refused to work by the head of government, whose deputy he worked from the end of 2017.
Vice-Chancellor and head of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) Heinz-Christian Strache resigned after a corruption scandal broke out around him because of a video conversation with a Russian-speaking woman who introduced herself as a niece of a Russian oligarch. This Strache was announced on Saturday afternoon. Earlier, Reuters sources in the government reported that Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz (head of government) refused to work with Strache.
The video of the more than six-hour talks that took place on July 24, 2017 (when Strache was not yet vice-chancellor) was partially published by The Mirror tabloid and jointly verified by the German newspapers Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung. There is no full video – Der Spiegel only retold what is happening in it, and published a six-minute compilation .
Briefly about what this video is and what is happening in it:
- The video was shot on July 24, 2017 in a villa in Ibiza. For some frames from the compilation, it is clear that it was shot on several hidden cameras pre-set by unknowns;
- There are long conversations in the video between Strache, his entourage Johann Gudenus (headed by FPÖ in parliament before the scandal, also resigned on May 18) and some other people whose faces are retouched – by the wife of Gudenus, a German-speaking man and a Russian-speaking woman in gold. The conversations were in German and in Russian, and women mostly communicated in Russian;
- During these conversations, an unnamed woman in gold offers to invest in the Austrian economy up to 250 million euros, in every possible way hinting that this money was received illegally;
- Gudenus and Strache discuss with her the prospects for cooperation, but for a long time they have not reached any agreements, although they offer the woman in gold various options for her investments, which are probably illegal;
- One of the options under discussion is that a woman, three weeks before the parliamentary elections, will gain control of the Kronen Zeitung newspaper (the largest in Austria) and help FPÖ win the elections, and in exchange for this, Strache guarantees her government orders, which were previously received by another company;
- Video participants smoke and drink a lot;
- Strache and Gudenus are also discussing a scheme for illegally financing a party through a dummy fund – they allegedly know several wealthy people willing to donate them from 500,000 to 1.5-2 million euros so that they do not have to report to the regulatory authorities;
- Who is the woman in gold (“the niece of the Russian oligarch”) is unknown.
In response to a request for comment, Strach said Der Spiegel that the meeting did take place, but was “completely private” and was held in a “relaxed, informal atmosphere,” and a lot of alcohol was drunk that evening. He argued that FPÖ never gave any privileges to those who donated money to her.
Who recorded the video and what the motives of the source published it is unknown. Der Spiegel refused to disclose the identity of the source, however, it is alleged that both German newspapers found out about the video independently and decided to cooperate with the work on its verification, and no one, including The Mirror, paid the source for publishing it.