Elsner to stay in custody as ankle tag bid fails

Another prominent businessman has had his appeal to be freed with an electronic ankle tag rejected.Former BAWAG bank CEO Helmut Elsner’s lawyers hoped to get their client out from preventive detention in Vienna following a new law which came into effect at the beginning of this month. They previously filed 15 official appeals to let Elsner await his verdict at home.Elsner was arrested in southern France and sentenced to nine and a half years for embezzlement and fraud in jail in 2008. He has been in kept in custody in a jail in Vienna ever since after his lawyers appealed the verdict.Now Vienna’s Criminal Court decided Elsner must stay behind bars. Christina Salzborn, a spokeswoman for the court, said today (Tues) judges feared the entrepreneur could flee or try to uncover previously committed business crimes.His wife Ruth Elsner said she was “extremely disappointed.””This is nothing but an absurd theatre and a psycho war,” she added.Elsner’s lawyers have pointed out several times over the past few months that their client’s health was at risk in custody as he reportedly suffered from a cardiac disease.The decision to reject an appeal to let Elsner await the verdict at his Viennese penthouse or in a clinic wearing an electronic ankle shackle comes just one day after Klagenfurt juridical authorities snubbed a similar bid by Wolfgang Auer-Welsbach’s lawyers.The businessman is accused of embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion in connection with the collapse of investment company AvW.The coalition government of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) said the new law was an attempt to take some burden off prison wardens’ shoulders. ÖVP Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner said the ruling should also help fraudsters with re-integrating into society.Bandion-Ortner was controversially the head judge in the trial against Elsner before being appointed federal justice minister.The new law – in effect since 1 September – gives business fraud criminals the chance to apply for early release from jail to spend the remaining time of their sentence at home with an electronic tag around an ankle. The device permanently sends information on their location to prison officials and police to ensure they do not break house arrest rules.The ruling however implies no hope for early release to violent criminals or people serving time for sexual offence and murder.