VIENNA Nov 21 Vienna prosecutors said on
Thursday they had extended a corruption investigation to include
the conservative People's Party (OVP) on suspicion it may have
used Telekom Austria funds for illegal party financing five
The investigation into the OVP, one of the big parties that
have dominated post-war Austrian politics, covers suspicions of
breach of trust and money laundering, prosecutors' spokeswoman
Nina Bussek said, confirming a report by Format magazine.
The case is one of several inquiries into whether Austrian
politicians illicitly used the former state monopoly telecoms
group - which local media have dubbed "the political ATM" - as a
source of funds for campaigning or pet projects.
The investigation centres on whether the OVP funnelled
Telekom Austria funds via an advertising agency to
finance election campaign ads, she said.
She confirmed that former Finance Minister Wilhelm Molterer
and current Foreign Ministry State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka
were suspects in the case. Molterer, now a senior official at
the European Investment Bank, was travelling and not immediately
available for comment, a spokeswoman said.
In a statement, Lopatka said he was involved in the case
after Telekom Austria ex-deputy chief executive Rudolf Fischer
"voiced the vague assumption" that he had been in contact with
Lopatka and others about the 2008 elections.
But Lopatka stressed that he had left the party leadership
at the end of 2006 and had nothing to do with 2008 elections.
The OVP, which is negotiating with Social Democrats on renew
their coalition government after both big parties stumbled to
historic lows in September elections, said:
"This concerns well-known accusations from years back. Of
course we have the highest interest in clearing this up."
Many deals in Austria have traditionally been done on the
back of friendships and favours, but a new generation of
prosecutors and politicians in the Alpine republic is trying to
change this culture.
Officials at Telekom Austria, which was privatised in 2000
but is still 28 percent state-owned, were not immediately
available for comment. The company has said in the past it is
trying to claw back millions from people suspected of bilking it
in a web of corruption scandals that have damaged its image.
Fischer was convicted in two earlier trials of covertly
channelling money to another political party and of share price
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Heinrich)