“The new costume in Carinthia”, headlines Viennese weeklyDer Falter, with an illustration of the southern Austrian political elite in prison clothes.

An investigation on the former home turf of right-wing populist Jörg Haider [still controlled by his close associates] has recently revealed that the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) leader, who died in 2008, had developed a cunning system to provide funds for his party and his conservative coalition partners of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).

In court last week, the ÖVP’s former tax advisor, Dietrich Birnbacher admitted that in 2007 he submitted a 12 million euro bill to Carinthia’s regional government for an eight-page long report he had drafted. The report recommended the sale of the scandal stricken banking group Hypo Group Alpe Adria to the Bavarian state bank, BayernLB. The sum, which was reduced to €6 million in the wake of protests by civil society was to be divided between Birnbacher, the FPÖ and the ÖVP.

Taken by surprise, the ÖVP’s regional president, Josef Martinz, resigned on the spot in the courtroom, while other local politicians now run the risk of prison sentences ranging from 12 months to 10 years.

The affair has rocked a country, where “scandals are plentiful”, points out the magazine —

The Birnbacher trial could breach the wall of silence. Police believe that the proceedings could push other witnesses to reveal the truth [in another more important affair] about former finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser [FPÖ].

For years, Grasser who is suspected of favouritism and the abuse of power, has successfully managed to avoid trial.