Strache was forced to resign as both Austrian vice-chancellor and FPO leader last week after media released a 2017 video of him promising to fix public contracts in exchange for money from a woman who posed as a niece of a Russian oligarch, who is reportedly living in Latvia. The talks with the woman, who, according to Strache, holds Latvian citizenship, allegedly took place at a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
Gudenus told the newspaper that his first meeting with the woman featured in the video took place in a restaurant in Vienna on 24 March 2017 when the former showed interest in purchasing a piece of land from the Gudenus family.
The dinner was also attended by the politician’s wife, a lawyer, the woman’s companion, whom Gudenus identified as Julian Thaler of Munich.
The former FPO deputy chairman said that the lawyer, who was brokering the deal, contacted potential buyers of the land and confirmed their true identities.
“He [the lawyer] showed me a copy of the Latvian woman’s passport. It was an EU passport,” Gudenus said in the newspaper interview.
According to Gudenus, the lawyer and Thaler said they were old friends. A series of meetings took place over six months before the talks in Ibiza featured in the video. Gudenus noted that Strache attended the Ibiza meeting, however, the lawyer was not present.
Gudenus told the newspaper that he was “embarrassed” about involving Strache in that situation.
Reports about the Ibiza meeting emerged on Friday, a week before Austria was due to participate in the European Parliament elections. The former FPO leader described the situation as a trap and “political assassination.”
Amid the scandal, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for holding snap parliamentary elections refusing to maintain a government coalition with the FPO.
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