October 2, 2012 - 14:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A former regional head of Austria's conservative People's Party (OVP) was sentenced to 5-1/2 years in jail in a corruption case that could hit support for his movement, part of the country's ruling coalition, in elections next year, Reuters reported.
Josef Martinz, who led the party in the province of Carinthia, and three others were convicted in a breach of trust case that centered on a scheme to milk money from the sale of state bank Hypo Alpe Adria in 2007.
The hearing followed a series of corruption scandals that have dented confidence in public officials and prompted Austria's parliament in June to tighten up rules on politicians' finances.
"The sentences in the case are brutal, but necessary," the Oesterreich tabloid said in an editorial.
The judge allowed the men to remain free pending an appeal against their sentences.
The tough verdicts late on Monday, Oct 1 come as a top aide to Chancellor Werner Faymann and the country's environment minister face a parliamentary investigative panel on Tuesday looking into allegations of high-level corruption.
Martinz resigned in July after admitting in court he took part in a scheme to claw back for party coffers part of a 6 million euro fee paid to a tax adviser on the sale. But he said he was innocent of the breach of trust charge.
After the hearing he told journalists the verdict was "a nightmare".
Tax adviser Dietrich Birnbacher and two state officials involved in the bank's sale were also sentenced to up to three years.