Austrian minister's husband goes to ground

Allegations surrounding arms contract bring resignations from governmen t. Steve Crawshaw in Vienna reports `We have said all that needs to be said. That is policy now'

The Austrian government coalition was reeling yesterday in the wake of the allegations of a bribery plot involving British Aerospace.

Peter Marizzi, one of the most important figures in the Social Democratic Party, was given "indefinite leave". Twenty-four hours earlier, the other politician recorded on the "bribes" tape, Hermann Kraft, the People's Party defence spokesman, resigned.

Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, the Socialist Party leader, yesterday offered Mr Marizzi only lukewarm support, saying "conversations will take place".

Meanwhile, pressure looks set to grow on the environment minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, whose husband Count Alfons Mensdorff, is named in the transcript as the alleged contact with BAe.

The count is described by Mr. Kraft in the recording as "a representative or consultant" to British Aerospace.

In a statement, Count Mensdorff denied having had contacts with Mr Kraft. He said he was in any case not in a position to offer special deals, because he is "only an adviser" to BAe.

Yesterday, all calls to the count were referred to his lawyer, Thomas Mondl, who in turn was unwilling to be drawn. In an interview on Austrian radio, Mr Mondl said that his client "has a contract" with BAe and is "a kind of representative".

"In case of doubt", the lawyer added, this could be considered a paid contract.

Mr Mondl told the Independent that, apart from the brief radio interview, he could not answer any questions because that would be "in conflict of interest with my client". He said: "We have said everything that needs to be said. This is policy at the moment".

Count Mensdorff runs a consulting agency known as MPA - which according to the Austrian magazine News, has BAe as one of its clients.

Like hundreds of other "advisers" to manufacturers of high technology equipment, the count's value to BAe - if he has any - will be in his ability to use contacts to secure deals.

Generally, the middleman receives anything from 1-10 per cent in commissions. He has several functions: bringing buyers and sellers together; using his local knowledge and contacts; and arranging specialised training, services and aftercare once the goods are delivered; There was speculation last night that Mr Marizzi, who said he was interested in doing a "Sherlock Holmes", may himself have recorded the conversation. One of Austria's daily newspapers said he "fell into his own trap".

Count Mensdorff, 40, married Ms. Rauch-Kallat last April last year - just two months after the eavesdropped conversation.

The couple's weekend home, is a large manor house in Count Mensdorff's native Burgenland, south of Vienna. The house, which is said to be undergoing extensive renovation, has 200 hectares of land which is used for commercial forestry.

Count Mensdorff is said to have an an income of 2.5m schillings a year (£156,000) from forestry and shooting on the estate. His previous ventures include turkey farming and producing boar pate, both of which failed.

News noted that the Austrian government had wanted to buy a BAe-146 aircraft five years ago, but that the Asch400m deal did not come to fruition because of an emerging scandal involving the payment of commission.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory