An Austrian former member of the European Parliament was sentenced Monday to four years in prison for corruption after being secretly filmed offering to change EU legislation for money.
Ernst Strasser, who is also an ex-Austrian interior minister, was recorded in 2010 and 2011 by undercover reporters offering his services in return for 100,000 euros ($135,000) 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 a European MP in 2011.