The first to speak was the former head of cabinet in the Ministry of the Interior and current head of cabinet of Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), Andreas Achatz. He was followed in the afternoon by Dieter Kandlhofer, former Secretary General in the Federal Chancellery (BKA) and in the Ministry of Defense. Most of the answers were vague.
When asked about filling posts, Achatz repeatedly referred to “legal requirements” and emphasized that the procedure had always been followed. In the case of specific chats, he remained vague, or he could no longer remember. According to Achatz, concerns were brought to the cabinet and to him “in a wide variety of ways”. For example, “partners or grandparents” would have contacted the cabinet about assignments.
Various concerns had also come through the President’s Office or from mayors or other groups. However, all of them were forwarded “under the legally prescribed procedure”, “also because the legal framework conditions are as they are,” emphasized Achatz, who worked under the former interior ministers Wolfgang Sobotka and Karl Nehammer as well as under the current department head Gerhard Karner ( all ÖVP) was head of cabinet.
Of course, the opposition factions and the Greens saw things differently. NEOS parliamentary group leader Stephanie Krisper presented Achatz with a chat history in which a request from ex-Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling (ÖVP) was brought to the cabinet via ex-Secretary General Thomas Schmid. However, Achatz could no longer remember this: “That was six years ago.” He can no longer say why he replied, among other things, with “hopefully it will be useful for us”. In any case, every request went to the responsible office, which then examined it and made a decision, he repeatedly stated.
Krainer asked about “Sobotka’s list of interventions”
SPÖ parliamentary group leader Jan Krainer wanted to know from Achatz whether he knew of a “Sobotka intervention list” that the former head of cabinet Michael Kloibmüller had mentioned in a message. “I haven’t kept any, written anything in any, and I honestly don’t remember there being any,” he said. Sobotka received requests from “all sorts of people”, be it from ÖVP members or non-ÖVP members. Krainer then asked Achatz for examples of the latter, which led to a lengthy discussion of the rules of procedure.
Krainer also asked Achatz about the sponsorship of an association headed by former ÖVP boss Spindelegger and which had been running a project with the aim of training people from Nigeria in Austria and then bringing them back to their homeland. According to Krainer, the project was funded with over 250,000 euros, but there was only one person who took part. Achatz could not remember at first, only when Krainer presented him with a letter in which Achatz spoke of completely missing the target numbers did he remember. Despite this, the funding was maintained, Krainer criticized.
“Only very superficial” contact with Schmid
He only had “very superficial” contact with ex-ÖBAG boss Schmid. He cannot remember any correspondence or SMS conversations with him. He did not perceive any influence on investigations. It was also not his job as a member of the cabinet to be informed about the work of the criminal police.
Dieter Kandlhofer, the ex-Secretary General of the Federal Chancellery (BKA) and the Ministry of Defense, was invited to Achatz on Wednesday. He refrained from making an opening statement, which prompted trial judge Wolfgang Pöschl to ask him about his CV. Kandlhofer’s extensive answer caused dissatisfaction with SPÖ mandater Wolfgang Matznetter. He suspected that the procedure was “strategic and tactical” because the MPs were deliberately deprived of their right to ask questions.
Kandlhofer was then asked about a whole range of topics. For example, why he suggested in a chat to Thomas Schmid Signa manager Christoph Stadlhuber – unsuccessfully – as a supervisory board of ÖBAG’s predecessor organization OBIB supervisory board. Because he knew him, the interviewee answered succinctly. Incidentally, Schmid replied at the time: “Sebastian does AR himself and has made 3000 commitments for 9 AR jobs :-)” Kandlhofer replied: “Yes, Basti likes to promise things” Schmid: “We should chew through the topics with him”.
At the end of July 2022, Kandlhofer retired from public service and is now Managing Director of Lilihill Industries. His name appeared in connection with the case of Klagenfurt Airport, where a large barracks was to be built on the non-operational airport areas for over 100 million euros – by the Lilihill Group. With Lilihill investor Franz Peter Orasch, Kandlhofer is said to have had shares in the same company during his time as Secretary General of the Defense Ministry. Kandlhofer did not see any bias in his questioning, and internal auditing also saw it that way.
At the beginning of the day, the ÖVP criticized a request for summons made by the SPÖ and FPÖ. Group leader Andreas Hanger found a connection with the state elections scheduled for the end of January in the charge of the Lower Austrian governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP). In addition to Mikl-Leitner and the Lower Austrian VP regional manager Bernhard Ebner, Chancellor Nehammer and ex-Finance Minister Schelling are to be questioned again in the autumn.