VIENNA Aug 9 A Vienna court convicted a former
Telekom Austria top manager and a senior advertising
executive on Friday of cheating the company out of 600,000 euros
($801,000) that prosecutors said was covertly channelled to a
right-wing party in 2004.
Ex-Deputy Chief Executive Rudolf Fischer was given a
three-year jail sentence - all except for six months suspended -
and Gernot Rumpold three years behind bars in the case, the
third in a slew of corruption probes linked to Telekom Austria
to reach court.
The court ordered the two to repay the company all the money
plus interest, Austrian media reported.
Prosecutors said Rumpold received the money in return for
fake consulting reports he drew up, and used it to replace funds
he was owed by the Freedom Party (FPO) of late firebrand Joerg
Haider, who died in a car crash in 2008.
They said Fischer helped arrange the payments to win the
favour of Haider, whose party was at the time part of a
coalition government with conservatives.
Two other defendants were given lesser sentences in the
breach of trust and perjury trial, and one was acquitted.
Rumpold's attorney filed an appeal and Fischer was considering
The case highlights stepped up efforts in Austria to end the
kind of practices that let public officials for years dip into
funds of former monopoly Telekom Austria for their own ends.
Local media have dubbed the company the "political ATM".
Prosecutor Herbert Harammer had argued in his closing
arguments that the authorities needed a wake-up call.
"We have to show potential wrongdoers in the corporate
boardrooms and party headquarters that breaking the law will
have tangible consequences," the Austria Press Agency quoted him
A new generation of prosecutors, politicians and
investigative reporters is trying to change a culture of
corruption in Austrian public life, where many deals were
traditionally done on the back of friendships and favours.
The court ordered the FPO - which in the meantime has split
into two parties - to relinquish the 600,000 euros. The party
said it would appeal against the ruling, which comes ahead of
national elections in September.
No current Telekom Austria executives were involved in the
trial. Fischer had already been sentenced to three years in jail
for share price manipulation in the first Telekom Austria case
to come to trial in February.
Telekom Austria was privatised in 2000 but is still 28
percent state-owned. A new major shareholder, Carlos Slim's
America Movil, with nearly 24 percent of the company,
came onto the scene last year.
($1 = 0.7490 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by David Evans)