VIENNA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Nine defendants including the ex-vice governor of Austria’s central bank went on trial on Monday for allegedly bribing officials in Azerbaijan and Syria to win banknote contracts.
The nine, including Wolfgang Duchatczek, are accused of forming a criminal organisation around the bank’s banknote printing subsidiary, the OeBS, and paying about 14 million euros ($19 million) in bribes between 2005 and 2011.
The main defendant is the former head of the OeBS, Michael Wolf. The others are ex-OeBS managers and staff and two lawyers. All plead not guilty and face up to 10 years in jail, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Duchatczek, who was also supervisory board chief of the OeBS, was suspended as deputy central bank governor and resigned in June after he was charged last year.
Prosecutor Volkert Sackmann told a Vienna court the OeBS had urgently needed new business to compensate for a loss-making contract with Singapore, and so had turned its attention to “exotic countries”.
The two lawyers helped set up a mailbox company in Panama to launder the money and transfer it to Azerbaijan and Syria, he said.
The trial is scheduled to run until Aug. 2. ($1 = 0.7307 euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Toby Chopra)