A Verdict on Corruption

German language media translated for TVR's Media Monitor

News | Vienna Review | November 2012

Other people’s money, 2 Oct.

by Michael Völker

"The most important thing is to have your picture in the paper. The content is secondary." That sounds like a very "old fashioned" politician, very old school. But it’s the reality. Take our Federal Minister for the Environment Nikolaus Berlakovich: What counts, he thinks, is to get your picture in the paper. So press liaisons are forced to take humiliating calls: "We’d have a story, but the minister would need to be in the photo." That’s just one example, one of many.

Berlakovich pays to get his photos in the media, and in large numbers. In 94% of the ads booked by the Ministry of the Environment, the minister is smiling from the page. State auditors have been very critical. And the new media transparency law is putting a stop to it: Self-promotion by department heads in ministry advertising will be prohibited in the future.

It is even more objectionable when one lets others advertise – and pay – on your behalf. When companies with close ties to the government are forced to put their advertising budget at the minister’s disposal. When the ÖBB is forced to fund Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Krone campaign.

Or when the ÖBB was "allowed" to sponsor the birthday party of the then-ÖVP Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel; or paid for SPÖ Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer’s elaborate pamphlet of undisguised self-worship. Similarly, the contributions of Asfinag and particularly Telekom are always encouraged – or misused.

The Special Investigating Committee is currently examining some of these advertising practices. The understanding of those affected: zero. State Secretary Josef Ostermayer, right-hand man of the Chancellor, and Berlakovich argue as if it were their own money […]



Prison Sentence for Carinthian ex-ÖVP Boss, 2 Oct.

by Charles Ritterband

The former head of the Carinthian People’s Party (ÖVP) and Deputy Governor Josef Martinz and his tax consultant Dietrich Birnbacher have received surprisingly long prison sentences for embezzling funds.

The Court of First Instance sentenced Martinz to five and a half years. Birnbacher received three years, two of which are on probation [ed.: correct info in Die Presse article]. Further harsh sentences were delivered for former heads of the Carinthia’s Holding Company [Landesholding], Hans-Jörg Megymorez and Gert Xander. An appeal and plea for the sentence to be overturned have been filed.

Birnbacher confessed and remained cooperative, which allowed him to receive a kind of witness protection. At the same time, ever since the proceedings started, Martinz, shielded by the ÖVP leadership [...], declared, he would act in the same way again in the future - and that the verdict had been politically motivated. In any case, this was an exemplary judgement.


"The Game" is Not a Game, 2 Oct.

by Florian Asamer

Why not a one-year prison sentence for every embezzled million! As a rule of thumb this measure might drastically and significantly change the grey areas of domestic politics.

The day after sentencing Josef Martinz, former head of the Austrian People’s Party in Carinthia, one senses dismay. Some find the preliminary verdict disproportionately harsh.

A sentencing of five and a half years without probation suggests a serious crime. But public perception in Austria has yet to classify as serious the illegal distribution of other people’s money to political parties, business associates and the like. Many consider embezzling something that is prohibited with a wink and a nod: A peccadillo or "gentlemen’s offence" for those that wish to follow their example.

But one glance at the Austrian criminal code would have sufficed. By embezzling funds above €50,000, the crime becomes equivalent to a robbery. To be precise, between one and ten years in prison. [...]

Five and a half years in prison are at the top end of the spectrum, but not beyond the expected. So, one year for every embezzled million. As a rule of thumb this measure could abruptly, and permanently alter the grey areas of domestic politics.

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