The first day of negotiations in the corruption process surrounding ex-Green politician Christoph Chorherr has ended. The key question: Can the public prosecutor’s office prove that the donations to his association “S2Arch” served as a bribe for zoning for building projects in Vienna? The defenders of the partly prominent defendants from the real estate and investment industry agree on this.
The majority of the ten defendants, some of whom were prominent, were demonstratively relaxed in the mega trial of ex-Greens Christoph Chorherr. But the tension of everyone involved was clearly noticeable in the large courtroom of the Vienna Regional Court. After all, it is a process that sets the direction. The focus is on the longstanding municipal council of the Vienna Greens, who have to face the allegations of “abuse of official authority” and “bribery” against the jury. Public prosecutor: “We have the necessary evidence” Influence on zoning in Vienna. At the start of the process, the business and corruption prosecutor’s office casually introduced how things are said to have gone in Vienna under red-green in relation to zoning: “Donate to the association from the canon and you get the business center, the Triiiple, the Heumarkt and so on”, said the public prosecutor about the generous donations made by the accused entrepreneurs from the real estate and investment industry to the choirmasters’ association “S2Arch”, which implements school projects in South Africa. The prosecutor is convinced that the donations were used to advance real estate projects and to bring about municipal council resolutions. “Of course, evidence is needed for this and we have this evidence!” Chorherr will not plead guilty Richard Soyer, the defense attorney for the main accused, sharply contradicts this in his opening statement: “Christoph Chorherr will not plead guilty,” he says, “My client has not be guided by the benevolence of the donors. The worldview that resonates in the indictment is overly critical, almost irrelevant to Chorherr,” said Soyer. “If entrepreneurs think it’s decent to donate to a good cause, then that’s nothing reprehensible,” he sees nothing but speculation about the accused ex-politician. With Chorherr in the dock: nine high-ranking business people from the real estate and investment industry. When asked by Judge Michael Tolstiuk what they earn monthly, almost all of the accused entrepreneurs replied: “I don’t want to make any statements about that.” Tojner, like eight other defendants, is accused of “contributing to the abuse of official power” and “bribery”. According to the indictment, he is said to have “greased” Chorherr for a zoning for the mega-project Heumarkt: “Everything went according to plan – in an exemplary process that ran for years,” says Tojner’s lawyer Karl Liebenwein, “There is not a single indication of a breach of duty Behavior of Herr Chorherr, who was just one of 100 local councilors who voted in favor of this modern project in 2016. There is also not a single indication that an irregularity occurred in the process or that there were interventions.” The enormous added value of the Heumarkt project for the Viennese public – from the ice skating rink to the gym – is the sole basis for the decision on the zoning in the municipal council been and not the donations to the Chorherr-Verein. Tojner applies for an acquittal. “A highly serious project” Michael Rami, lawyer for the accused Wilhelm Hemetsberger, outlines it similarly. At a birthday party in 2008, long before the accused period, his client first found out about the “S2Arch” association: “Mr. Hemetsberger was completely enthusiastic about the project, traveled to South Africa for the first time in 2009 and thus became a long-term donor. The project is highly serious and my client’s life project,” Rami sees no evidence of any benefit for his client from the donations. “That’s absurd,” he criticizes the indictment and pleads – like all ten accused – for acquittal. Wess criticizes “undifferentiated indictment” “You have to look at and assess each constellation separately,” appeals Norbert Wess, lawyer for the accused Erwin Soravia, to the lay judges. He also concedes “that the indictment has been shown to contain false and unclear accounts. Christoph Chorherr was neither a planning councilor nor an executive member of the Vienna city government, as it is wrongly stated there.” The donations to the school project in South Africa had absolutely nothing to do with the “Triiiiple” and “Danube Flats” construction projects, to which the indictment refers . “We can speculate on the stock market, but not in the courtroom,” defender Oliver Scherbaum criticizes his client’s indictment despite the lack of evidence. A lot of attention for Rene Benko A lot of pairs of eyes are particularly focused on real estate juggler Rene Benko on Tuesday. The 45-year-old is accused in connection with a Signa donation of 100,000 euros from November 15, 2011. What is special about Benko: According to the indictment, if he were convicted, a judgment by the regional court for criminal matters from August 2013, in which he was sentenced to a conditional prison sentence of twelve months that has since been redeemed. If he were found guilty, he would “only” get an additional sentence. Defense attorney Stefan Prochaska: “This is an accusation that I have never seen in my 30 years as a lawyer,” he said in his plea to the prosecutor, “It does not contain a single piece of evidence against my client.” In the jury courtroom At the same time, slips of paper were distributed with a timeline to show that the donation had no connection whatsoever with the “Hauptbahnhof Business Center” construction project mentioned in the indictment. Continued on November 14th .6 million euros that flowed into the Chorherr-Verein. It will be weeks before a verdict is reached. There is a risk of severe prison sentences. However, only if the WKStA can deliver the announced evidence. The trial will resume on November 14th.