Former Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache convicted of corruption

Photo: AP In this Friday, July 9, 2021 file photo former Freedom Party (FPOE) leader Heinz-Christian Strache waits for the start of a trial in a courtroom in Vienna, Austria.

Austria's former vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was convicted Friday over graft charges linked to the giant "Ibiza-gate" scandal, which is still roiling national politics two years after it broke, news wires report.

Heinz-Christian Strache was found guilty of giving favours in exchange for donations to the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ).The former FPÖ leader was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence, judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt announced after the trial.

He had been accused of trying to change laws to favour a private hospital in exchange for party donations worth up to €12,000, and the offer of a yacht holiday in Corfu.

The owner of the private hospital in question, Walter Grubmüller, was also given a 12-month suspended sentence for bribery.

Strache, who served as vice-chancellor from 2017 to 2019, and Grubmueller had pleaded not guilty to the charges and can appeal the verdict. The politician was first caught up in a sting operation while on holiday on the Spanish island of Ibiza in 2017.

Ahead of parliamentary elections, Strache had held a drunken meeting there with a woman, who presented herself as the rich niece of a Russian oligarch wishing to invest in Austria.

Strache was offered help to finance his campaign in exchange for a promise that the private hospital would win public tenders if he were to enter the government.

The meeting was all caught on a hidden camera, which was then released to the media in 2019, bringing down Austria's coalition government.

Several other investigations have been opened by the public prosecutor’s office as a result of the "Ibizagate" video, which continues to rock Austrian politics.

One of the alleged instigators of the video, a private investigator, has been arrested on drug charges.

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who returned to government in 2020 is being investigated on suspicion of lying to a parliamentary committee of enquiry on corruption, which was set up in the wake of the "Ibizagate" scandal.

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