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Austrian MEP gets four years in jail over bribery sting

Sunday Times journalists filmed Ernst Strasser offering to change EU laws on behalf of a fake company for an annual fee.

Image: Ronald Zak/AP

A FORMER MEP has been sentenced to four years in prison for corruption after being secretly filmed offering to change EU legislation for money.

Ernst Strasser, who is also a former interior minister in his native Austria, was recorded in 2010 and 2011 by undercover reporters offering his services in return for €100,000 per year.

Strasser denied the charges, saying he believed the Sunday Times journalists, who were posing as employees of a fake firm called Bergman and Lynch, were secret agents.

“It is a breach of European Parliament rules to charge money to change legislation. We felt we had enough material to expose that,” one of the reporters, Claire Newell, told the high-profile trial in Vienna via video link on Monday.

Newell and fellow journalist Jonathan Calvert secretly filmed a string of meetings with Strasser, tapes of which were made available to the Vienna court and were also handed to the European Parliament.

One of the meetings took place in a fake London office for their “pretend lobbying firm”, Newell told the court, staffed by other Sunday Times journalists “to make it look busy”.

The sting also targeted three other MEPs: Romania’s Adrian Severin, Slovenia’s Zoran Thaler and Pablo Zalba from Spain.

Strasser resigned as an MEP in 2011.

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