She knew nothing and not much else about meetings with possible donors. You just organize the appointments. After all, Wieser revealed another email address of the Chancellor, previously unknown to the committee. The entrepreneur Gabriela Spiegelfeld had previously denied having organized events to collect donations.
The interest of the parliamentary groups – with the exception of the ÖVP – in Wieser as an informant was great. Kurz’s assistant had only hit the headlines in the past few days due to her relationship with the managing director of Hygiene Austria. However, it was not the search of the house of the MSN mask manufacturer that was the subject of the survey, but rather possible “breakfast meetings” of the Chancellor with Novomatic boss Harald Neumann.
“I make sure that Kurz is in the right place at the right time,” said Wieser, who has looked after her boss since 2011 and was generally very taciturn about her job. The head of cabinet was always responsible for the content. Accordingly, she also denied having known about the “Project Ballhausplatz”, which was supposed to help Kurz become chancellor – apart from media reports.
At the beginning of the survey, Wieser revealed that the Chancellor had a third, “semi-private” address in addition to his email address at the Chancellery and one at the ÖVP, which naturally aroused the interest of the MPs. After a brief discussion of the rules of procedure, Wieser announced this. A corresponding request was promptly made by the SPÖ and NEOS to transmit the mails and calendar entries from this account.
The perceptions at meetings of her boss were limited or nonexistent at Wieser. She explained the situation as follows: “Basically, I can remember such dates as when Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to visit us.” The fact that she turned to her confidante about almost every question also caused anger for some MPs.
The description of the Chancellor’s means of communication caused astonishment in the committee. Because he does not use the official mobile phone of the Chancellery at all, it does not even have a SIM card installed, says Wieser. Instead, the Chancellor calls with an ÖVP cell phone, even when the German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls. The SPÖ and NEOS also requested this telephone for the committee.
But memories of the questioning of Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) were also awakened during Wieser’s questioning. When asked whether she had a laptop in the Chancellery during the investigation period, she could not remember. You could also work with your mobile phone when you are out and about, she argued, as did Blümel.
Spiegelfeld’s survey, which is also associated with the “Project Ballhausplatz”, had previously taken up a lot of time. She reported that she had been organizing non-partisan “discussion rounds” since 2016. Kurz himself approached them in 2017 with the request to continue this in the spirit of the turquoise “movement”. However, she denied that donors were primarily recruited there: “I didn’t walk around with a bell bag or a turquoise shoebox.”
“If someone asked me whether they could donate, I referred them to the homepage or the department responsible for donations,” said Spiegelfeld. In the election year 2017, the ÖVP received EUR 4.4 million in donations (almost EUR 3 million of which went to the federal party), plus EUR 424,000 through sponsorship.
When Spiegelfeld was confronted with an alleged “list of sponsors” in connection with the “Project Ballhausplatz”, she did not want to comment on the names on it. In this connection, she was brought up as a suspect in proceedings that could of course be reopened. In response to further inquiries, Spiegelfeld said that she had invited some of the people on the list to “topic-related expert panels”.
Spiegelfeld vehemently denied that she had met Kurz on Mallorca: “No, of course not – an unbelievable allegation. He wasn’t with me, he neither stayed with me nor was he over coffee with me.” In private she had met him again and again, for example she had repeatedly organized larger dinners, but in this context no presents had ever been offered.
She is friends with ÖBAG boss Thomas Schmid, which is why he often went to private dinners with her. He was also a guest on Mallorca, but had to bear the costs of the stay himself. Spiegelfeld was also confronted with the fact that her husband became a member of the supervisory board of the Federal Forests. This had nothing to do with the friendship with Schmid, she protested. Her husband is qualified for the job.
There was excitement towards the end of the questioning when Brandstätter reported an alleged threat against himself by the informant. Accordingly, Spiegelfeld is said to have called someone from the “environment” of the mandate after the questioning of ÖBAG boss Schmid and said: “Now is war. Now it is being destroyed.” Brandstätter wanted to know who had come up with the words if he didn’t trust Spiegelfeld himself to use such a formulation. Spiegelfeld did not answer the question, as it had criminal relevance, which procedural judge Rohrer also saw.
In the afternoon, the questioning of Daniel Varro, a cabinet employee of Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP), who had already worked in his cabinet under turquoise-blue, provided little illuminating for the subject of investigation. At the time, the expert on financial and tax law issues was responsible, among other things, for the coordination of legal projects in the ÖVP-FPÖ government.
In this function, for example, the gambling novella, which was withdrawn after a few days due to the lack of reflection in the coalition, or the reorganization of the financial market supervisory authority over his table. In this context, he also sent a “strategy paper” on banking supervision from the then Erste Group boss Andreas Treichl to the Ministry of Finance, according to Varro. “Basically” everything that was brought forward was passed on to the appropriate offices.
The committee day ended late in the evening. Two days of survey are scheduled for next week, among others with the former SPÖ Federal Chancellor Christian Kern.
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