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Ex-Austrian central banker on trial for bribery

Source: Reuters - Mon, 17 Feb 2014 21:23 GMT
Author: Reuters
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The entrance of the Austrian National Bank is pictured in Vienna July 8, 2013 REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
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(Adds partial admission by defendant)

VIENNA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - The former deputy governor of Austria's central bank and eight other people went on trial on Monday charged with bribing officials in Azerbaijan and Syria to win banknote contracts.

Wolfgang Duchatczek and his co-defendants are accused of forming a criminal organisation around the bank's banknote printing subsidiary, the OeBS, and paying about 14 million euros ($19 million) in bribes between 2005 and 2011.

Duchatczek, who was also supervisory board chief of the OeBS, has pleaded not guilty. He was suspended as deputy central bank governor and resigned in June after he was charged last year.

Ex-OeNB head Michael Wolf and his co-defendants face up to 10 years in jail on charges including bribery, abetting breach of trust, money laundering, and forming a criminal association.

Prosecutor Volkert Sackmann told a Vienna court the OeBS had urgently needed new business to compensate for a loss-making contract with Singapore, and so had turned its attention to "exotic countries", the Austria Press Agency reported.

Wolf's lawyer Manfred Ainedter told the court everyone at the central bank had known about the OeBS's problems. He said Wolf did not invent the "system" and was not initially involved but wanted to save jobs.

The other defendants are ex-OeBS managers and staff and two lawyers. One defendant, a former marketing manager at the OeNB, made a partial admission of guilt, while the others pleaded not guilty.

The two lawyers helped set up a mailbox company in Panama to launder the money and transfer the bribes to Azerbaijan and Syria, prosecutor Sackmann said.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday and run until Aug. 2. ($1 = 0.7307 euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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