Austrian ex-minister taken into custody over graft scandal

Sophie Karmasin

Sophie Karmasin

FILE

Agency Report

A former government minister and a key figure in the corruption scandal which brought down former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been taken into custody, a court spokeswoman said on Friday.

Former Families' Minister Sophie Karmasin from the same conservative People's Party (OeVP) as Kurz, was taken into custody "to prevent further offences", a spokeswoman for Vienna's regional criminal court told AFP.

Karmasin, 55, has been implicated in the scandal which led to Kurz stepping down as chancellor in October, before announcing he was leaving politics altogether in December.

It marked a spectacular fall for a politician who had been hailed as the "Wunderkind" of Europe's conservatives after becoming the world's youngest democratically elected head of government in 2017 at just 31.

The scandal erupted in October when prosecutors ordered raids at the chancellery and the finance ministry while investigating allegations that Kurz's inner circle used public money to pay for polls which were skewed to boost Kurz's image.

Prosecutors also suspect that in return for the polls, and fawning coverage of Kurz, tabloid Oesterreich received lucrative public adverts.

Karmasin, a former opinion researcher, is thought to have commissioned the surveys from a former colleague.

She is also suspected of earning kickbacks for the surveys as well as other offences.

According to recent Austrian media reports, Kurz has taken a job as "global strategist" at the firm founded by billionaire conservative venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

AFP

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