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Suspect behind Austrian 'Ibiza-gate' video arrested

December 11, 2020

Berlin police say they've arrested an Austrian suspected over a video that toppled Vienna's then-government and exposed far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache. He was filmed on Spain's Ibiza island in 2017.

A video showing FPÖ leader Strache in Ibiza
A screenshot of a frame from the video, with Heinz-Christian Strache sitting on the couch and Johann Gudenus standing and gesturing with his handsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Spiegel/Süddeutsche Zeitung

The 40-year-old Austrian was arrested at Vienna's request and on a European warrant, Berlin police said Friday, while Austria's Die Presse newspaper identified him as a private detective. Pending possible extradition to Austria, he was being held in Berlin, police said.

The so-called "Ibiza Affair" in May 2019 ended Austria's then coalition between Chancellor Sebastian Kurz' conservative People's Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and triggered fresh elections.

FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache was forced to resign. In the video, filmed in 2017 on the Spanish island of Ibiza, he talked about ways to gain control over Austrian media and infrastructure, apparently in return for campaign funding. Strache and a Russian-speaking political ally, Johann Gudenus, were purportedly meeting with the niece of a Russian oligarch.

They discussed how to circumvent limits on campaign donations via third parties, and the impact that support from a major Austrian newspaper, Kronenzeitung, could have on the upcoming election campaign for the FPÖ, should the investor purchase the publication and alter its editorial line.

The suspect arrested in Berlin, who appeared in the video as an associate of the Russian, was not officially named Friday, in line with German and Austrian privacy norms.

After initial release of video excerpts last year by Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the man disappeared. The whereabouts of the woman in the video remain unknown.

Austria's Die Presse newspaper reported on Friday that the suspect accused of illegally making sound and film recordings was also suspected of trading in cocaine. 

"The Berlin officers were working on the basis of a request for legal assistance from Vienna prosecutors and on the basis of a European arrest warrant," said a police spokeswoman in the German capital.

ipj/msh (AFP, dpa)

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