I.n Austria, the top diplomat Johannes Peterlik has been suspended from duty and dismissed from his post as ambassador to Indonesia. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg confirmed on Friday that the case had been handed over to the disciplinary authority in September while he was still serving as Foreign Minister. “Everything else lies with the public prosecutor and the authorities.” There was no official information about the reasons. According to media reports, Peterlik is accused of betraying secrets to the former Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek. Member of the National Council, David Stögmüller (Greens), also pointed in this direction.
The newspaper Kurier and the ORF radio reported a possible connection with Marsalek, but not because of his escape after fraud and bankruptcy at Wirecard became known, but from the time before. It has been known since July 2020 that Marsalek is said to have bragged to other bank managers in London that he knew the formula for the Russian neurotoxin Novitschok, with which Sergei Skripal was poisoned in England. Marsalek, it is said, showed a document from the Organization for a Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which had investigated the traces of poison.
“Leak” suspected in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Now the Green MP Stögmüller, who had dealt with the case in the Ibiza committee of inquiry, said there had been signs that the “leak”, ie the dissemination of the actually secret document, was connected to the Austrian Foreign Ministry and Peterlik. Peterlik has been with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1994. After the formation of the “turquoise-blue” ÖVP-FPÖ coalition, he was promoted to Secretary General by the new Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (independent, appointed by the FPÖ), which is the top position in the ministry for civil servants.
Connections between Marsalek and FPÖ people have been discussed in the Ibiza-U-Committee. In addition, the Wirecard manager maintained close contacts with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. A former senior constitutional protection official and a former member of the FPÖ National Council helped Marsalek escape to Russia. Peterlik remained Secretary General in 2019 during the period of the “government of civil servants”, in which Schallenberg became Minister. But after the formation of the “turquoise-green” government in 2020, Peterlik was replaced and sent to Indonesia.
As General Secretary, predecessor of Linhart
Incidentally, Peterlik’s predecessor Michael Linhart, who was replaced by Kneissl in 2017, took a similar path from Secretary General to Ambassador. Linhart has meanwhile returned to Vienna as Foreign Minister in place of Schallenberg, who rose to become Federal Chancellor after Sebastian Kurz resigned.
The suspension of Peterlik apparently has nothing to do with the return of his predecessor, but had already been initiated. Peterlik was suspended on October 13 after the delivery of the decision by the federal disciplinary authority, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday and added: “We ask for your understanding that you cannot comment on ongoing proceedings. The presumption of innocence applies. ”According to the Ministry of the Interior, the public prosecutor’s office in Vienna is responsible for the investigation. A related investigation will be kept under lock and key, said a spokesman for the Vienna Public Prosecutor’s Office.
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