Illegal party financing: prison sentence for former Telekom Austria manager

The former head of the A1 landline network (Telekom Austria) was sentenced to another year in prison on Friday. The Viennese diverted several million euros from A1 through bogus invoices. According to a confession, he donated the money to politicians and party-affiliated organizations from the ÖVP, FPÖ and SPÖ in order to obtain political decisions in favor of Telekom Austria. This had negative consequences for competitors, competition and consumers.

Ex-monopoly A1 made use of the Hochegger PR agency in a variety of ways. From 2000 to 2010, 38 million euros are said to have flowed – partly for real PR work, partly for illegal activities. Company founder Hochegger is basically confessed and also condemned several times. A1 has reclaimed nine million euros.

The current indictment accused Fischer of making illegal payments of 5.7 million euros. The money is said to have been channeled from A1 through the company Valora Solutions Projektbegleitung GmbH. Hochegger founded Valora together with the former Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (initially FPÖ, then non-partisan on ÖVP ticket), later Valora belonged to FPÖ politician Walter Meischberger.

The non-final judgment from Friday is at least the fourth criminal conviction of Fischer. Given the amount of corruption, it is difficult to get an overview. For manipulating the price of Telekom Austria shares in 2004, Fischer was sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment, one year of which was conditional, for breach of trust and fraud. In 2013 Fischer received two and a half years imprisonment (mostly conditional) for the payment of 600,000 euros in favor of the FPÖ under Jörg Haider in 2004.

In 2005, Jörg Haider founded a new party, the now meaningless BZÖ. At that time, however, the BZÖ was worth almost one million euros to the Telekom Austria managers. The money was paid out covertly through two advertising agencies, countersigned by Rudolf Fischer. In that case, the manager was acquitted in 2013 in case of doubt. The public prosecutor’s office was unable to prove that Fischer knew that the payment was not counterbalanced by a legal performance.

Fischer got away with the Tetron scandal with a sentence of nine months (six of them conditional) for infidelity after he had arranged payments of 1.1 million euros to the gun lobbyist Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, who has now also been convicted. In particular, it was about a TETRA radio system for emergency services and authorities. The Republic of Austria originally commissioned the master-talk consortium to set up and operate. A1 came away empty-handed.

But in 2003 the then Interior Minister Ernst Strasser (ÖVP) terminated this contract and initiated a new tender. The new contract went to the Tetron consortium around Alcatel and Motorola, with the support of A1. After a long process, mastertalk received an advance payment of 30 million euros from the Republic of Austria. Strasser later became a member of the European Union until his corruption became known. For this Strasser was sentenced to three years in prison.

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