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Ibizagate: Former leader of far-right Austrian party arrested for corruption

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Heinz-Christian Strache is the former leader of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party (FPO)
Heinz-Christian Strache is the former leader of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party (FPO)   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ronald Zak
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Austria's former vice-Chancellor has been charged with corruption following the "Ibizagate" scandal, prosecutors say.

Heinz-Christian Strache, who was also president of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Strache had risen to Austria's second-highest political position in 2019 before a corruption scandal brought down the country's ruling coalition.

"Ibizagate" emerged after a video of Strache at a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza in 2017 was leaked to the country's media.

The video, secretly filmed when Strache was a parliamentary candidate, showed him offering political favours in exchange for financial support.

The senior politician was also seen and heard offering public contracts to a young woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch and wanting to recycle dirty money.

Strache retired from politics after the scandal, which caused a political earthquake in Austria and the opening of several investigations.

Investigators seized the former vice-chancellor's mobile phone as part of the probe, which revealed text messages that he had intervened once in power in 2018 to approve a clinic for Austria's social security system.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Strache had been charged related to the "granting of advantages" in return for his "support to change a law".

The owner of the clinic, which specialised in cosmetic surgery, was a donor to the FPÖ and had invited Strache aboard his yacht.

The clinic’s owner has also been charged, media reports said, linked to a €10,000 donation to the party.

He told a parliamentary committee that the politician also spent four days at his holiday home on the Greek island of Corfu in 2016.