Politics

Explosive thriller around Höchstrichter Brandstetter

SMS to Tojner burdens Brandstetter, who feels he is still capable of office despite the investigation. The allegations are denied.

Ex-Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter tried to limit the damage on Friday. He told the KURIER that he still felt that he was able to function and that he was in a position to fulfill his duties as a constitutional judge. He is an independent and irremovable high judge.

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) takes note of its view – VfGH President Christoph Grabenwarter expressed no more and no less in a statement on Friday. There is (for the time being) no procedure for impeachment.

“Did Tojner not say anything”

Brandstetter admits in the KURIER conversation that the investigation into his person in the Tojner case is definitely a topic of discussion among his fellow judges.

According to the files, Brandstetter is suspected twice of violating official secrecy. During his time as minister (2017), he is said to have informed his friend and investor Michael Tojner how it is in the investigation into the Viennese Heumarkt project – whether it is being investigated or not. “He didn’t say anything to Tojner. From a legal point of view, the question arises whether it is an official secret at all if I tell someone that they will not be investigated, ”says Brandstetter’s defense lawyer Georg Krakow.

And in 2019, Brandstetter, as Tojner’s defense lawyer, is said to have contributed to informing the investor about an upcoming house search. In this case, Tojner is suspected of having damaged the province of Burgenland by up to 100 million euros by taking over three former non-profit housing associations (Gesfö, Riesenhof, Pannonia).

Brandstetter is said to have obtained information about the planned raid from Section Head Christian Pilnacek and passed it on to Tojner. An SMS that Brandstetter wrote to Tojner 90 minutes before the house search is particularly spicy: “If they come today: stay calm …” The prosecutor’s office concludes from this “encouraging message” that Brandstetter and Tojner “have definite knowledge in advance” of the raid on June 25, 2019.

Tojner’s defense lawyers say the tip did not come from Pilnacek or Brandstetter, but rather through media inquiries to Tojner’s office around June 14, 2019 regarding a planned raid. On June 24, 2019, Tojner’s lawyer Karl Liebenwein informed the investigating economic and corruption prosecutor of this fact in writing.

On Friday the idea circulated that Brandstetter – like Pilnacek – could be suspended. Constitutional expert Bernd-Christian Funk says the accused status is not sufficient for impeachment proceedings.

On the contrary. When trying, the Supreme Court itself could violate a fundamental right: the presumption of innocence during ongoing criminal proceedings. Brandstetter could also abdicate voluntarily – but as he emphasizes, he does not intend to.

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