Former Immofinanz boss convicted of breach of trust

VIENNA, April 12 Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:38pm EDT

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VIENNA, April 12 (Reuters) - The former head of Austrian property group Immofinanz was convicted of breach of trust on Friday over stock option deals that prosecutors said had bilked investors.

A Vienna court sentenced ex-Chief Executive Karl Petrikovics to six years in jail, Austrian media reported.

The case is the latest in a series of corruption scandals as a new generation of Austrian politicians and prosecutors cracks down on a cosy interplay of money and politics in the affluent country.

"Petrikovics was the mastermind," Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt said when announcing the verdict, the Austrian Press Agency said.

Petrikovics could have been sentenced to up to 10 years behind bars. It was not immediately clear if he would file an appeal.

Prosecutor Volkert Sackmann had accused Petrikovics and two other convicted defendants of arranging stock options within a web of allied companies in deals that he said made them millions without their investing a cent.

"You have the chance today to bring these men off their high horses and back down to the earth of reality," APA quoted him as telling the court in his summation.

Petrikovics had denied any wrongdoing.

In the latest wave of white-collar crime trials, three former Telekom Austria managers were sentenced to jail for share-price manipulation in February.

Former interior minister and European parliamentarian Ernst Strasser was sentenced to four years in jail for bribery in January.

The Austrian parliament enacted a sweeping ethics package last year hoping to stem a series of scandals. (Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by John Wallace)

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