Gorbach exposed as hunting trip participant

Former Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach attended several hunting trips of a weapon industry and telecommunication technology lobbyist, according to leaked documents.

Magazine News reports today (Thurs) that Gorbach took part in the hunting outings organised by Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly. The lobbyist is married to ex-People’s Party (ÖVP) General Secretary Maria Rauch-Kallat. He received around one million Euros from Telekom Austria (TA) for lobbying activities regarding a technical assignment. The ÖVP has denied that it has any kinds of links to Mensdorff-Pouilly.

It is unclear whether illicit business dealings or the subsidisation of political parties were discussed by the participants of the various hunting trips which took place in the Austrian province of Burgenland and Scotland. Mensdorff-Pouilly was questions by the parliament’s anti-corruption commission last month. He denied any wrongdoing and refused to answer some of the most controversial questions – but informed lengthily about details of hunting and forestry restrictions in Burgenland.

Gorbach also appeared in front of the anti-corruption panel, which is headed by Greens parliament member (MP) Gabriela Moser. Other witnesses the committee spoke to are former ÖVP Interior Minister Ernst Strasser, Industry-Holding Stock Corporation (ÖIAG) head Markus Beyrer and lobbyist Peter Hochegger.

Beyrer came under fire after it emerged that he attended hunting trips organised by Mensdorff-Pouilly while Hochegger is widely seen as the key personality in possible corruptive occurrences around TA in the past years. Gorbach is just one of the many ex-politicians and businesspeople who once received money from the ex-TA lobbyist or one of his former agencies.

Opposition politicians questioned Beyrer’s credibility since ÖIAG manages the state’s 28.4 per cent interest in TA, the country’s leading telecommunications and mobile services enterprise. Critics think that Beyrer is the wrong person to ensure a full clarification of the alleged corruption and fraud scandals due to his participation in the hunting trips back when he was the general secretary of the Austrian Federation of Industries (IV).

ÖVP Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger caused a stir by suggesting to end the anti-corruption panel’s activities before summer. The ÖVP boss said state prosecutors, not politicians should examine the past incidents at TA and the various other issues the commission planned to focus on in the coming weeks.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) President of the Parliament Barbara Prammer reacted by making clear that the committee may keep investigating after its brief summer break. “The parliament, not a government member, decides about how long a parliamentary committee should remain active,” she said.

Meanwhile, the parliament gave prosecutors the go-ahead to investigate against Werner Amon and Kurt Gartlehner. The MPs might be entangled in the TA corruption controversy. Amon is under immense pressure for refusing to step down as head of the ÖVP’s anti-corruption committee team while many SPÖ officials dissociated themselves from Gartlehner who acted as the party’s telecommunication industry affairs spokesman.