5 November 2020
Karl-Heinz Grasser was sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzlement, receiving bribes and falsification of evidence in a deal to sell thousands of publicly owned apartments. He became the youngest finance minister in the country’s history in 2000. He held this position from February 2000 to January 2007. At that time he was praised by many for consolidating Austria’s budget.
For some time, he became some kind of a jet set person after marrying Fiona Swarovski, the heir of the Swarovski, one of the world’s largest crystal manufacturers in Austria.
The court in Vienna heard that Grasser was involved in kickbacks of more than €9 million. At that time the government decoded to privatize housing company Buwog and the 60,000 apartments it owned. The court said Grasser and two middlemen passed on information about a bid in return for a kick-back of 1% of the contract bid price. Three yeas later the apartments were sold for €961 million. The bidder was able to bid for a sum slightly more than the highest bid and he got the contract. The bidder then paid €9.6 million, to ex-Freedom Party of Austria General Secretary Walter Meischberger and lobbyist Peter Hochegger. Both men were also handed prison sentences. This money was then divided into three bank accounts in Lichtenstein, the court found.
Another matter that came up to the view of the judge was a deposit of 500,000 euros, which Grasser, as finance minister at the time, paid cash into a bank. He said that this money was received in Switzerland from his mother-in-law and then he brought it to Austria. Later, the money moved into the Liechtenstein account to which part of the Buwog commission was paid. The public prosecutor viewed this deposit as part of the commission.
While sentencing, the judge that he abused his political function, violated property interests and failed to fulfil his obligations as finance minister. He added, “Those who conduct their business honestly do not need any accounts in Liechtenstein.”
At the hearing Grasser said that today he lives secluded on a farm near Kitzbühel with no job, no house and no car.