Salzburg Festival fraudster cannot yet be questioned

The former technical director of the Salzburg Easter Festival (Osterfestspiele) cannot yet be questioned by the public prosecutor’s office over fraud, his lawyer Leopold Hirsch said today (Thurs).Klaus Kretschmer, whom an audit has found solely responsible for embezzlement of up to 800,000 Euros from the Festival since 2006, is recovering from a jump from a bridge over a motorway in an apparent suicide attempt. He suffered serious head and back injuries and a number of broken bones.Hirsch, who is president of the Salzburg Lawyers Chamber, said Kretschmer’s “life is no longer in danger” and was able to speak but was taking large quantities of pain killers.An audit of the books of the Festival by Audit Service Austria found Kretschmer responsible for fraud.Salzburg Social Democratic (SPÖ) Governor Gabi Burgstaller, who chairs the committee responsible for the Festival, said on Tuesday this week that the damage caused by Kretschmer, who was summarily fired on 22 January 2010, had amounted to 500,000 to 800,000 Euros.She added the audit had found that Kretschmer had pocketed at least 487,112 Euros of Festival money “without permission” and the amount might be much higher since the auditor had examined the books only going back to 2006. It also found he had held another job without the knowledge of his Festival employers.She said the Audit Service Austria would extend the audit back to 2001, when Kretschmer had been hired.Burgstaller also pledged to do everything possible to have a new Festival structure in place before the Festival takes place this year to ensure that the Berlin Philharmonic would perform rather than accept an offer to do so at the Baden-Baden Festival in Germany.The Festival committee chaired by the governor has suggested that the city and provincial governments, the tourism promotion fund and the Herbert-von-Karajan Foundation be part of it.Salzburg SPÖ Mayor Heinz Schaden has suggested that the provincial tourism organisation (Salzburger Land Tourismus Gesellschaft or SLTG) be part of the Festival’s new structure.He said: “With this suggestion, Salzburg business would be part of it. That is as it should be since the Festival is important to business.”In response, SLTG manager Leo Bauernberger said he could not understand why a provincial tourism organisation should be part of the Festival’s new structure if the two Salzburg city tourism organisations were not since the Festival primarily benefited the city’s economy.Noting that the city financed the two city tourism organisations, Schaden said that “it cannot be the city will finance the Festival in two ways.”