Ex-Telekom Austria bosses cleared of corruption

by Reuters
Friday, 11 April 2014 16:54 GMT

A man talks on his mobile phone outside a Telekom Austria phone booth in Vienna January 9, 2014 REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

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VIENNA, April 11 (Reuters) - Two ex-Telekom Austria executives and a former railways manager and his wife were cleared of breach of trust after being accused of buying and selling a prime property too cheaply without due process, the Austria Press Agency said.

A jury found the four not guilty in the case involving the sale of a Telekom Austria building in Vienna to the railways boss - a business associate of an acquaintance of the chief executive's - who then sold it for twice the price a year later.

Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt said the evidence had been insufficient to prove beyond doubt that ex-CEO Heinz Sundt and ex-CFO Stefano Colombo had deliberately misused their powers to the detriment of the company in the 2006 sale of the property.

Sundt and Colombo approved the sale of the building that housed Telekom Austria's main Vienna switching centre for 5.4 million euros ($7.5 million) to then-Austrian railways chief Martin Huber and his wife, Barbara Huber-Lipp.

The elegant 19th-century building overlooking a park close to Vienna's boulevard ring road has since been converted into luxury apartments.

Sundt and Colombo said they had relied on the advice of the then-head of Telekom Austria's real-estate department, whose ill health had prevented him from giving evidence.

The case that ended on Friday was the fifth in a string of corruption trials involving Telekom Austria to come to court. The others involve bribery, party financing and share-price maniplation.

No current company executives are on trial.

Close ties between business and politics have long been the Austrian norm, but a new generation of politicians and prosecutors is slowly changing the culture. ($1 = 0.7234 Euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan)

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