A corrupt MEP caught by a British newspaper offering to propose amendments to EU laws in exchange for 100,000 euros a year has been given a three-year-jail term.
Austrian Ernst Strasser, 58, also a former interior minister of Austria, was originally given a four-year term in 2013 after he was filmed by reporters from the Sunday Times newspaper offering to pursue amendments to a planned law on hedge funds for cash.
After a retrial, he was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in jail for bribery by a Vienna court in March, which has now been reduced again by the country’s highest court to 3 years taking into account the massive fall from grace that he had experienced by his actions.
Strassser’s lawyer Thomas Kralik had appealed the sentence, and the case was referred to the Supreme Court of the Alpine republic as a result.
Kralik said: “To a certain extent this was entrapment. Had they not put the carrot before his nose, there would have been no case to answer.”
And he added. “He is now politically and socially a dead man.”
Strasser, a member of the conservative Peoples’ Party (OeVP) who had served as interior minister from 2000-04, will most probably have to spend at least six months in prison after which he will be eligible to wear an electronic bracelet and serve his sentence at home. He is expected to start serving his sentence this year.
Supreme Court President Eckart Ratz said it was “vital for democracy to fight against people who use politics to line their own pockets”. He then addressed Strasser directly as he told him: “An EU parliamentarian who is corrupt is an evil that destabilises and calls into question the functioning of the European Union.”
However, Ratz said the court decided to reduce the sentence because Strasser had been made into somewhat of a “scapegoat” by the circumstances of the offence and deserved some pity for his public fall.
Strasser said he had made “grave mistakes” but denied the charges against him. He made no comment as he left the court building.