Finance scandal reason for early election

The financial scandal in Salzburg has been hotly debated since last December. Many people lost their trust in the government and this has led to early elections on 5 May.

The former financial adviser Wolfgang Eisl (ÖVP) issued a letter of attorney ten years ago, which allowed three state servants to make risky financial deals. The power of attorney was prolonged by the former financial secretary Othmar Raus (SPÖ) and David Brenner (SPÖ).

This meant that Monika Rathgeber, financial expert and head of the financial sector of the state financial department, was able to invest tax money and made profits for years.

However, Mrs Rathgeber later generated losses in the millions. She kept it secret and wanted to make up for it by herself. In summer 2012, the financial expert resisted instructions, faked signatures, was suspended and later dismissed.

Her successor Harald Kutschera of the German Bank, revealed 250 deals in books, which had not yet been discovered.

New accusations culminated on 6 December, when financial adviser David Brenner reported a possible loss of over 340 million Euros. He accused Mrs Rathgeber of having faked minutes of the financial council.

The ÖVP demanded new elections after the scandal had become public. In contrast, governor Gabi Burgstaller apologised to the population and tried to avoid new elections.

This was followed by accusations, self-criticism and excuses by party members and affected civil servants. Mrs Rathgeber considers herself to be the victim of intrigues.

An inquiry board dealt with the scandal and 28 witnesses were questioned in court. Apparently, the responsible politicians had eliminated the monitoring of the department.

In the meantime, it has become clear that the debts of the state are 1.8 million Euros more than originally thought. The deals are now being dissolved and the state parliament has banned speculation.