Austria's populist vice chancellor resigns after alleged corruption video surfaces

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned Saturday after being caught in a secret video footage offering government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.

Strache, member of the populist right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, told the media in his announcement that he was illegally set up in a “political assassination," though admitted that his behavior was “stupid, irresponsible and a mistake.”

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The resignation raises questions whether the current governing coalition consisting of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s center-right People’s Party and the Freedom Party of Austria will survive. Either Strache will be replaced with another party member or the coalition ends and new elections are called.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (Austrian Freedom Party), center, addresses the media during press conference at the sport ministry in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, May 18, 2019. Strache says he is resigning after two German newspapers published footage of him apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (Austrian Freedom Party), center, addresses the media during press conference at the sport ministry in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, May 18, 2019. Strache says he is resigning after two German newspapers published footage of him apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Spiegel published on Friday excerpts of a secret video that showed Strache offering government contracts to a Russian woman, who claimed to be the niece of a prominent Russian businessman supposedly interested in investing in Austria.

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Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are heard saying to the woman that she could get lucrative construction contracts if she buys an Austrian newspaper and supports their party.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, from left, hold a joint press conference after one year government in Austria at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria. Two German newspapers are reporting that the head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party offered government contracts in return for support for his party from a potential Russian donor shortly before the Austrian's 2017 parliamentary election.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, from left, hold a joint press conference after one year government in Austria at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria. Two German newspapers are reporting that the head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party offered government contracts in return for support for his party from a potential Russian donor shortly before the Austrian's 2017 parliamentary election. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

The outlets refused to disclose the source of the footage but said it was authenticated by a forensic video expert.

The video reportedly lasts some six hours and was taken in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza. In addition to advising the woman to buy a newspaper, the politicians also appear to suggest ways of funneling money to his party via an unconnected foundation in a bid to circumvent Austrian rules on political donations.

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Strache said during his resignation speech that he had no further contact with the woman and no contributions were made.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.