Austrian prosecutors search finance minister's home in bribery probe
Austrian prosecutors on Thursday searched the home of Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel, a close ally of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, on suspicion of bribery involving a gambling company seeking help with foreign taxes.
The investigation into Bluemel and two other unnamed people is part of a wider probe stemming from the infamous Ibiza video sting that led to the collapse in 2019 of a previous coalition government between Kurz’s conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party then led by Heinz-Christian Strache.
At the heart of that wider probe are allegations that government officials and gambling firm Novomatic agreed to appoint a former FPO official as a director of Casinos Austria, a company in which Austria and Novomatic owned stakes, in exchange for gambling licences and other favours for Novomatic.
In Bluemel’s case, the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office said it suspects a manager at an unnamed gambling company offered to donate money to an unspecified political party in exchange for Austrian officials’ help with a potential tax claim against it abroad.
He is suspected of committing bribery and corruption offences, the statement added.
“The accusations are false and easy to disprove,” Bluemel told reporters at a brief news conference on Thursday evening after opposition parties called for him to resign, which he said he would not do.