Austria’s ruling Socialist Party (SPÖ) has been plunged into a crisis after its Israeli chief campaign manager, Tal Silberstein, was arrested along with two other Jews in for an international fraud and money-laundering swindle which saw the FBI and Europol conduct investigations in five countries.
The arrest of Israeli national Tal Silberstein, who was paid €400,000 a year by Chancellor Christian Kern’s SPÖ to work as their chief “campaign advisor” was exclusively revealed by the OE24 news service in Austria.
According to OE24, “Kern’s election campaign adviser was arrested at the Monday morning in Israel” after the FBI and Europol demanded that the Israeli police take action.
According to the report, Silberstein not only ran the SPÖ’s campaigns and strategy, but was also closely involved with Israeli diamond millionaire Beny Steinmetz, who has been under house arrest since the end of last year.
Silberstein and Steinmetz are accused of having provided €9 million in bribes to Africans to obtain a license to mine iron in Guinea, and the allegations include one that millions of US dollars were given in bribes directly to the President of Guinea.
After news of his arrest broke, the SPÖ immediately terminated Silberstein’s job with the party in Austria. According to the OE24 report, Silberstein was a “cunning campaign manager” who had worked for the SPÖ and the NEOS party—a smaller liberal grouping.
Silberstein also served as a consultant to the former Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, as well as various top politicians in Romania, the report continued, adding that a “business connection” also existed between Silberstein and a previous Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer—also an SPÖ member.
Shortly after Silberstein’s arrest, a third Jew named Udi Neta, was arrested. Neta, described by OE24 as Silberstein’s “Finance Minister” has been involved with the operation since the mid-1990s.
A survey conducted by OE24 revealed that within the first two days of the scandal breaking, more than 40 percent of voters wanted the government to resign immediately.
New elections are already scheduled for October 15 in Austria, and it remains to be seen how far the scandal will affect turnout and support for the Socialists.