Austrian ex-MEP Ernst Strasser jailed for bribe-taking

Ernst Strasser - file pic Mr Strasser's meeting with British undercover reporters in 2011 sparked the investigation

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A former Austrian interior minister and Euro MP, Ernst Strasser, has been sentenced to four years in jail after being convicted of bribe-taking.

The conservative Austrian People's Party MP, was exposed by reporters from the UK's Sunday Times, who secretly filmed him while posing as lobbyists.

They showed him being offered a 100,000-euro (£81,000; $130,000) annual payment in exchange for influencing EU legislation in the European Parliament.

Strasser, 56, denied any wrongdoing.

He said he had resigned to protect his party.

He said he had guessed that the "lobbyists" were fake, but had played along with the ruse in order to find out what was actually motivating the pair, who dined with him before the Sunday Times expose in March 2011.

Presiding Judge Georg Olschak said he did not believe Strasser's defence that he thought the journalists were US secret agents whom the politician had wanted to expose.

"That is probably one of the most outlandish things I have heard in my 20-year career," said Judge Olschak.

"You won't find a single court in Austria to believe that argument."

The judge told Strasser few people had damaged Austria's reputation as much as he had.

Alexandra Maruna, for the prosecution, said Strasser had "massively harmed European politics" and deserved to be punished for abusing confidence in elected officials.

One of four MEPs caught up in a "cash-for-laws" scandal in 2011, he plans to appeal against the verdict.

Strasser served as Austrian interior minister from 2000 to 2004 and in the European Parliament from 2009 to 2011.

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