‘Stupid’ Austrian vice chancellor resigns amid video scandal

Austrian vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has announced his resignation after two German newspapers published footage of him apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.

Mr Strache told assembled journalists he was illegally set up in a “political assassination”, but admitted his behaviour in the video was “stupid, irresponsible and a mistake”.

The scandal has led to speculation about the future of the governing coalition between Mr Strache’s anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party.

Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache (Ronald Zak/AP)
Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache (Ronald Zak/AP)

Scenarios include replacing Mr Strache in the cabinet with another party member or ending the coalition for new elections. Mr Kurz has so far not spoken publicly.

In his resignation statement, Mr Strache said he was quitting so the coalition could continue its work.

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel on Friday published extracts of covert video purportedly showing Mr Strache offering government contracts to a Russian woman purportedly interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.

In the video, from an unnamed source, Mr Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are heard telling the woman she could expect lucrative construction contracts if she bought an Austrian newspaper and supported the Freedom Party.

Heinz-Christian Strache addresses the media (Michael Gruber/AP)
Heinz-Christian Strache addresses the media (Michael Gruber/AP)

Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel said the footage was authenticated by a forensic video expert.

According to the two newspapers, the video spanned six hours of drink-fuelled conversation in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza between the Austrian politicians and the woman, who claimed to be the niece of a prominent Russian businessman.

Aside from discussing possible investments in Austria, including the purchase of influential tabloid newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Mr Strache also appears to suggest ways of funnelling money to his party via an unconnected foundation to circumvent Austrian rules on political donations.

Mr Strache said he had no further contact with the woman and there were no contributions.

- Press Association

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