00:34 GMT +307 December 2019
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    Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the right-wing Freedom Party, FPOE, adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017

    Major Scandal Involving “Russian” Girl in Austria: Suspects Behind Explosive Video Arrested

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    A 2017 video from an Ibiza hotel leaked earlier this year triggered the collapse of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's government as it appeared to show then-Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache offering government contracts to a woman he said he believed was a Russian oligarch's niece in exchange for helping his campaign.

    Vienna’s Public Prosecutor’s Office has arrested three key suspects behind the scandalous Ibiza video that caused the government to collapse in Austria earlier this year, the outlet Der Standard reports. The trio, including an ex-girlfriend of the Ibiza detective involved in the scheme, was questioned by investigators and remains in custody, according to another outlet, Kronen Zeitung.

    According to several media outlets, house searches at several locations in Austria were conducted in conjunction with the arrests earlier this week. Two suspects with criminal records, a 39-year-old Austrian with Bosnian roots, and a 52-year-old Serb, were living in Salzburg, as the local outlet Salzburger Nachrichten reports. They are said to have recruited an imposter to play oligarchic niece Alyona Makarov, whom former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache allegedly offered a quid pro quo deal in Ibiza in 2017. The two suspects are thought to have installed the recording equipment in the hotel where their meeting took place in order to subsequently "seek potential (prospective) buyers for the recordings".

    The two have reportedly known each other for many years. They are allegedly linked to private detective Julian H., who acted as the "interpreter" for the fake Russian oligarch niece. The scheme reportedly developed after Strache’s bodyguard R. began to collect information about his boss, as he wanted to sell it through his lawyer M. The attempts had no success, so M. and private detective J. H. allegedly came up with an idea to produce an incriminating video. M. put Johann Gudenus, the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party’s parliamentary faction, in contact with the fake Russian oligarch niece, which later led to the meeting.

    Bombshell Before Election

    The bombshell video was published by Süddeutsche Zeitung and Spiegel shortly before the European election in May 2019. The footage showed then-Vice-Chancellor Strache allegedly discussing the possibility of buying a media resource to publish favourable stories about the government alongside a young woman who was reported to be the “niece of a Russian oligarch” from Latvia. The scandal that ensued after the video’s release forced Strache to resign, along with the Austrian government, including coalition ally and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, following a no-confidence vote.

    Media investigations eventually revealed that the “Russian” woman in the video was actually a Bosnian national who was paid €7,000 to play the role. Strache described the affair as entrapment and a “political assassination”, with media reports later suggesting that the video’s creators had used alcohol and prohibited substances to “loosen his tongue”.

    The video was sold to a mysterious “German company” for €600,000 before being handed over to the esteemed German media publications. Strache launched a formal complaint against the outlets in June.

    Related:

    Austrian President Calls Video With Former Vice-Chancellor Strache 'Shameful'
    Austria Scandal: Girl on Video With Strache is Actually… Bosnian - Report
    Austrian Prosecution Sees No Reasons to Launch Probe Into Strache Video Scandal
    Tags:
    government, Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), Austrian People's Party (OVP), Heinz-Christian Strache, Ibiza, Austria
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