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Trial against ex-ÖVP Minister Karmasin: “She never had enough”

Trial against ex-ÖVP Minister Karmasin: “She never had enough”
Former family minister Sophie Karmasin before the start of the fraud process in Vienna
Image: GEORG HOCHMUTH (APA)

The trial against the ex-minister and a co-accused department head in the Ministry of Sports began on Tuesday at the Vienna Regional Court, with lively media interest. “She always wanted more, never had enough and the others should pay for it,” said senior public prosecutor Gregor Adamovic in the direction of the lay judges. “This is about social benefit fraud by the minister responsible for social benefits,” he summarized the indictment.

Footage from the courtroom:

“A test for the rule of law”

Whenever a former minister has to take a seat in the dock in the large courtroom of the Vienna Criminal Court, it is a “test for the rule of law,” said Adamovic. Then a question arises: “Is it true what is written in the constitution, that everyone is equal in court? Or are those who think that there is a two-tier judiciary, and who always judge it up there, right? can?” If unlawful behavior is found, of which he is convinced as a prosecutor, the penalty must also be severe.

“The rule of law must make it clear that unlawful behavior by ministers will not be tolerated,” because anyone who is sworn in by the Federal President promises to be in the service of the people. “Compared to these assurances, reality was like day and night. The common good was not the priority for Karmasin. All of the acts accused here were at the expense of the general public.”

Wrongly drawn more than 78,000 euros?

On December 17, 2017, Karmasin resigned as minister. “Immediately after that, the crimes of fraud begin,” said Adamovic. After leaving politics, Karmasin is said to have unlawfully obtained continued payments by concealing from employees of the Federal Chancellery that she had seamlessly continued her self-employment after her term as Minister for Family Affairs. Incriminated are 78,589.95 euros, which Karmasin is said to have wrongly received from December 19, 2017 to May 22, 2018. The second complex of charges relates to three studies for the Ministry of Sports, for which Karmasin was awarded the contract after leaving politics by, according to the indictment, persuading two competitors – including her former employee Sabine Beinschab – to carry out “the content specified by her and with her in advance in terms of content to transmit agreed offers to the clients in order to ensure that Karmasin Research & Identity GmbH, which is attributable to them, would receive the orders” (indictment).

“She built herself a luxury villa”

In principle, every former member of the federal government is entitled to a continued payment, since you are subject to a professional ban during your term of office. However, Sophie Karmasin did not need this social benefit, emphasized Adamovic. “During the period of her continued entitlement, she built a luxury villa. Is someone with such wealth in need? No. Does someone like that need bridging assistance? No. Was she entitled to it?” You can easily answer that with “Certainly not”.

62,000 euros repaid according to the ZiB report

Karmasin ultimately repaid around 62,000 euros of the approximately 78,000. An “active remorse”, which ensures her impunity, is not present. “Karmasin also only paid back after the time in the picture reported about it”, although she would have had four years since 2018.

“She acted with full knowledge and with the intention of enriching herself,” the chief prosecutor was sure. As evidence of this, he brought in emails from Karmasin’s numerous inquiries to a responsible official as to whether she was allowed to earn something or not. He had told her clearly several times that she was not allowed to earn anything during the period of continued payment. A message from Karmasin to Sabine Beinschab, in which Karmasin made it clear “I’m not allowed to earn anything” and therefore only wants to settle an invoice at a later point in time, is evidence of this.

ORF reporter Gaby Konrad reports from the regional court in Vienna:

For the first time, short confidants in court

With Karmasin, a first person from the political environment of ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is on trial, investigations against other ex-ÖVP officials from Kurz downwards are pending. The trial for serious fraud and agreements restricting competition in procurement procedures is scheduled for three days and has nothing to do with Karmasin’s role in the ÖVP survey affair, in which she is said to have been significantly involved. In this regard, the surveys have not yet been completed. For the time being, it is about continued payments and anti-competitive agreements.

If convicted, Karmasin and the co-accused ministry official, who was decommissioned after the indictment was filed, face up to three years in prison. The presumption of innocence applies to both. If Karmasin were found guilty, the time spent in custody would count towards her sentence. The ex-minister was arrested on March 2, 2022 and taken into custody two days later because of the risk of committing a crime. It was only on March 28 that the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Vienna followed up on a complaint by her lawyers Norbert Wess and Philipp Wolm – Karmasin had to spend 26 days in a cell.

Source: Nachrichten

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