Former Austrian finance minister found guilty in corruption case

Karl-Heinz Grasser given an 8-year jail sentence.

Former Austrian finance minister found guilty in corruption case

Austria’s former Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for his involvement in a major corruption scandal, local media reported.

The criminal court of Vienna said Grasser was guilty of providing insider information to a private investor ahead of the sale of 60,000 state-owned apartments in 2004. Grasser pocketed around €9.6 million for his part in the deal, the court heard during the trial, which lasted three years and became known as the BUWOG Scandal after the company involved.

Grasser, who served as finance minister between 2000 and 2007 and was a member of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) until 2003, was also found guilty of bringing €500,000 in cash into Austria, money that ended up in the same Liechtenstein bank account where illegal BUWOG payments were deposited. The former minister told the court he had received the money from his mother-in-law in Switzerland.

Grasser regularly hit the headlines of Austria’s tabloids in the 2000s alongside his wife Fiona, a fashion designer and heiress to the Swarovski crystal empire. In 1992, Grasser became the protégé of Jörg Haider, the Austrian far-right leader.

Grasser’s defense attorney Manfred Ainedter said he would contest the verdict, calling it “plain misjudgement” and promising to “raise every appeal.”

According to Ainedter, the jury failed to understand “the enormous pressure” of “tens of thousands of negative media reports” that “unjustly condemned Karl-Heinz Grasser.”