Can German Chancellors be charged?

Possible false testimony in parliament : Public prosecutor's office is investigating Austria's Chancellor Kurz

The Austrian judiciary is investigating Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for possible false statements before the parliament's committee of inquiry in Ibiza. The head of government announced this on Wednesday.

The investigations, which were initiated by opposition parties, increase the pressure on Kurz and his conservative ÖVP. In connection with the investigation committee, the finance minister and brief confidante Gernot Blümel has been in the focus of the public prosecutor's office for months.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office for business and corruption confirmed the German press agency's investigation against Kurz and his cabinet chief Bernhard Bonelli. Several reports were received in this matter, including from the liberal Neos party, the spokesman said.

The Ibiza Committee of Inquiry sheds light on alleged post haggling and the possible influence of party donations on political decisions at the time of the government of the ÖVP and the right-wing FPÖ, which was in office from December 2017 to May 2019.

According to the ad from Neos, which the dpa has received, the Chancellor and his head of cabinet denied in the committee that there had been political agreements in the appointment of short confidante Thomas Schmid as head of the ÖBAG state holding company. According to the Neos, the prosecution has chat logs that prove the opposite.

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Some messages from Kurz, Schmid and Blümel have been leaked to the Austrian media. They give the impression that the ÖVP was certain about Schmid's future role - and that already a few months before the independent ÖBAG supervisory board made the personnel decision in March 2019.

Kurz said to journalists that he could "not imagine a conviction" "with the best will in the world." He always tried to answer the questions in Parliament truthfully. He criticized the fact that the committee of inquiry tried to turn words in their mouths and "somehow force people into a false statement".

SPÖ calls on Kurz to resign when charged

The social democratic SPÖ called on Kurz to resign if he should be charged. "An accused Federal Chancellor can no longer exercise his office and must draw the consequences," said the SPÖ MP Jörg Leichtfried. The opposition also accused the ÖVP of using false testimony and other tactics to obstruct the work of the committee of inquiry.

Finance Minister Blümel had only delivered the files requested to Parliament last week after Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and the Constitutional Court had put pressure on him. In addition, Blümel is being investigated for possible corruption related to the Novomatic gaming group. Blümel has denied the allegations.

Kurz also fought for weeks against delivering emails from the Chancellery to the investigative committee. On Wednesday, however, the Constitutional Court announced that “the Federal Chancellor's complete e-mail inboxes” would have to go to parliament from the end of 2017 to the end of 2019.

The committee is named after the so-called Ibiza video, in which the former FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache appeared susceptible to corruption and spoke about questionable donations. (dpa)

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