Austrian chancellor expects to be cleared in adverts probe
VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said he expects to be cleared in an investigation into his role in advertising campaigns by state agencies he supervised as infrastructure minister.
Prosecutors have been examining whether Faymann and a top aide leaned on the OBB state railways and Asfinag motorway agency to place flattering ads with friendly papers during his tenure as minister before he became chancellor in 2008.
Both Social Democrats had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the case, which the opposition Freedom Party had asked prosecutors to investigate and has made headlines in Austria.
Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger of the conservative People's Party - which has been grappling with its own corruption scandals - has said Faymann would have to step down if indicted.
Asked about the case by ORF TV on Monday night, Faymann said: "There is no indictment and in the last conversation (authorities) said there is no indication for an indictment, so we don't need to discuss this hypothetical question."
He said he was prepared to appear before a parliamentary investigative panel looking into a wave of graft scandals if called to testify about the case. The issue of whether to summon Faymann has provoked heated political wrangling.
A spokesman for the Chief Prosecutors Office said the case was still under investigation by Vienna prosecutors. They will review the file when it is finished and then pass it on to the Justice Ministry for a final decision on whether to pursue or drop the case, he said.
Prosecutors had said in April they were seeking expert advice on the value of two dozen ads taken out by state railways with the Krone tabloid before deciding how to proceed.
A series of high-level corruption investigations led to ethics legislation this year meant to restore crumbling trust in Austrian public officials before elections in 2013.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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