Prosecutors drop advertising probe into Austrian leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2013 1:11 PM
Prosecutors drop advertising probe into Austrian leader

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian authorities said on Tuesday they had dropped an investigation into Chancellor Werner Faymann over his role in advertising campaigns by state agencies that he had supervised while infrastructure minister.

Prosecutors had been looking into whether Faymann and a top aide, Josef Ostermayer, had swayed the OeBB state railways and Asfinag motorway agency to place advertisements promoting him in newspapers during his tenure as infrastructure minister.

Both Social Democrats had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the breach of trust case, which the opposition Freedom Party (FPO) had asked prosecutors to investigate.

The decision spares Faymann, 53, from becoming ensnared in a graft trial like others over the past two years that have shaken Austrians' faith in elected officials.

Faymann is still trying to build a new coalition government after an inconclusive September election in which his party performed relatively poorly.

The chancellor's office said it had always expected the case to be dropped because the allegations against him were baseless.

FPO party manager Harald Vilimsky responded angrily to the prosecutors' decision, telling the Austria Press Agency the move showed the political elite rallying to protect one of its own.

Corruption remains rife in Austrian public life, where many deals are done on the back of friendships and favors, although a new generation of prosecutors and politicians in the wealthy Alpine country is trying to change this culture.

(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by Gareth Jones)