VIENNA – VIENNA (AP) — Austrian prosecutors said Tuesday they were investigating after a respected weekly newspaper published excerpts of what it claimed was a diary suggesting there were transfers of money from Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein to late far-right politician Joerg Haider's inner circle.
The weekly, Falter, said it had obtained the diary of Walter Meischberger, a former member of Haider's Freedom Party. Falter is publishing what it describes as excerpts of the diary that mention an alleged transfer of €45 million by the Libyan leader in connection with an unnamed Haider confidant. According to Falter, the diary also claims that others from Freedom Party circles visiting Iraq returned home with millions of euros. It claims that further millions allegedly came from a Swiss account belonging to the Iraqi leader's family. Falter says Meischberger had secondhand knowledge of the alleged transfers.
Falter did not provide details about where it obtained the purported diary. A spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office, Thomas Vecsey, confirmed that authorities had seized the diary but declined to comment on its author or contents, saying it was under investigation.
The daily Kurier quoted Meischberger as saying in an e-mail that he would advise against taking the matter too seriously.
A receptionist at the office of Meischberger's lawyer said he was on vacation and not available for comment on the matter. A number for Haider's widow could not be found.
"I knew my brother as someone whose handling of affairs was always proper, and that's why I want these rumors to be cleared up — but not the way it's currently being done," Haider's sister, Ursula Haubner, told broadcaster ORF.
Haider, who died in a car crash in 2008, was the head of the Freedom Party before breaking away to form the less successful Alliance for the Future of Austria five years ago.
During his political career, he achieved notoriety for, among other things, a visit with Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq war and a friendship with Gadhafi when Libya was still an international pariah.
The excerpts are to be published in Wednesday's issue of Falter, which provided The Associated Press with an early version.