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Deceased Austrian right-winger's hidden fortunes are being investigated

Joerg Haider, the deceased darling of the Austrian far right, reportedly once had 45 million euros squirreled away in foreign accounts. The emergency nationalization of a major bank has brought the information to light.

Joerg Haider

What fortune did Haider leave behind? And where has it gone?

Myth, rumor and controversy still follow former Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider, almost two years after he crashed his car while drunk, and died.

Austrian media reports now suggest that investigators are looking into a vast private fortune hidden away in dummy foreign companies, much of which has been lost since Haider's demise.

As the Austrian government continues to try to clean up the mess at the nationalized Hypo Group Alpe Aldria bank, which almost collapsed last year, it has reportedly stumbled across records of some 45 million euros ($58.8 million) ultimately traceable to the far-right leader. Now though, the funds in a string of letterbox companies in Liechtenstein amount to a much smaller sum, roughly five million euros.

Libyan link?

The weekend magazine Profil first reported the story, and asserts that the missing funds have been lost speculating on the stock markets since Haider's death in October 2008. The article also claims to offer new information on the long-standing rumors that Haider had close ties to the Libyan leadership.

The Austrian knew Said al-Gaddafi, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's son, but this report suggests that he also regularly received cash donations for his election campaigns in US dollars. Someone apparently close to Haider, who is not named in the publication, claims these payments were between $150,000 and $200,000 (113,800 to 151,000 euros).

The Hypo Group Alpe Aldria bank in Klagenfurt, Austria

The Austrian magazine says this bank's collapse helped them find the data

"Afterwards we broke the money up into installments of about $7,000 and then went all over Austria to exchange the money over the counter at high street banks," the unknown whistle-blower told the magazine. "The losses in commission payments alone were simply crazy."

'Nothing in the estate'

Those close to Haider politically and personally say the media reports are difficult to believe. His widow, Claudia, told Austria's APA news agency that the money "was not mentioned in the will."

Meanwhile, Haider's right-hand-man Stefan Petzner, who took over the Alliance for the Future of Austria party after the car crash, asked if someone had miscounted.

"I really can't imagine the kind of sums that are being talked about," Petzner said of his former leader's alleged fortunes, again speaking to the APA news agency. "Could it be that someone confused euros with old Austrian schillings?"

Petzner, when later pushed for further comment, suggested the story might be part of a smear campaign by the mainstream political parties in Austria.

Haider was a wealthy man at the time of his death; as well as governing the Austrian region of Carinthia, he owned an expansive private estate.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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