According to his longtime employee and supporter Martin Ehrenhauser, Hans-Peter Martin misappropriated a signficant part of the EUR 2.3 million awarded to him by the state after the EU elections of 2009. Such funds are awarded to all parties who win seats in an election and may be used to cover campaign costs only.
Ehrenhauser accuses Martin of illegally claiming private expenses, nepotism and deceiving auditors. He has reported Martin to the prosecutor's office for embezzlement, misappropriation and document forgery, which in turn has made the formal request to the European Parliament to lift the immunity he has as an MEP. Ehrenhauser has also called for him to step down.
- A German company called Support and Solutions run by a psychologist friend of Martin's received EUR 833,000 out of the election compensation funds. Ehrenhauser suspects forged receipts for bogus services, while Martin disputes the precise sum and claims the company offered strategic assistance, project management, supervision and coaching.
- EUR 121,000 went to Martin's private bank account, labeled "rent for 2009". According to Martin, this was a lump sum payment for the use of two seperate apartments as offices in 2007 and 2009.
- He made a gift to EUR 58,000 to a former assistant to pay off debts. A similar sum is mentioned in Martin's June 2010 newsletter, but there is no mention of his personal relationship to the receiver.
- Martin's wife received EUR 21,000 for "transportation costs". According to Martin, this fee was paid for the use of a car over multiple years and was below cost.
Martin: »Documents quoted were only drafts«
Martin's defense centers on the claim that the documents Ehrenhauser is quoting from were drafts that he illegally obtained from the list's email server and misinterpreted, since Ehrenhauser was privvy neither to the specific details nor the final settlement submitted to the government.
Ehrenhauser has quit Hans Peter Martin's List and will continue his work in the European Parliament as an independent.
Martin's maverick anti-corruption image in jeopardy
Hans-Peter Martin started his career in the European Parliament as the leading candidate for the SPÖ in the elections of 1999. He later split from that party, and as an independent MEP uncovered a corruption scandal in the European Parliament, using methods other MEPs called spying. In more detail…
He founded his own list and successfully ran on a platform of transparency and honesty, strongly supported by the Kronen Zeitung. In the 2009 elections, Hans-Peter Martin's list received a surprising 17% of the vote, gaining one parliament seat for a total of three. His self-portrayal as a tireless fighter for openness and fairness in the European Parliament has no doubt heightened the standard his voters will hold him to, increasing the significance of the current allegations. While the Krone has not been overtly critical in editorials so far, they did publish scathing letters to the editor.
Latest in a long series of fallings-out
Martin has continuously had differences with his colleagues:
Ehrenhauser is the third and final MEP to leave his list over the last years.
Second-in-line Angelika Wertmann quit in late 2009 making similar charges, earning her sharp attacks by Ehrenhauser at the time. In more detail…
Martin's MEP colleague during the previous term, Karin Resetarits, switched to the ALDE fraction after a falling-out. In more detail…
Media attention useful for promotion of new political movement
Martin Ehrenhauser and his office chief Florian Schweitzer
are notably savvy
in their publicity efforts, granting exclusive stories to different mediums
and revealing the specific allegations piecemeal over several weeks. In more detail…
According to former colleague Resetarits they were also behind the anonymous leak of information accusing Alexander Zach, head of the small Liberal Forum and others of corruption in the 2008 national election campaign.
Ehrenhauser had been demanding a full explanation of the book-keeping irregularities from Martin since September 2010. Since January 2011, he has been said to be planning to found a new political movement to compete in upcoming national elections — current media attention around these revelations should prove a useful way of increasing his name recognition and reputation.
Third Austrian MEP to face corruption charges this year
The allegations against Martin come just weeks after former ÖVP
MEP Ernst Strasser was spectacularly
removed and colleague Helga Ranner silently quit her post.
This will likely increase public disillusionment with politics in general and particularly the EU, which already takes more of it's share of the blame in tabloid media. Voter turnout to elections to the European Parliament, which recently increased slightly to 46%, is expected to fall as a consequence. Right-wing, euro-skeptic FPÖ is the most likely benefactor.
Hans-Peter Martin, MEP since 1999, has worked with Martin Ehrenhauser since 2007. He denies any wrongdoing, calling it a character assasination campaign based on partial and outdated information.
Martin Ehrenhauser became an MEP in 2009 after working as the head of Hans-Peter Martin's office for two years.