IA spy affair is taking place in Austria that has adventurous ramifications. The connections extend from Vienna to Moscow, from London to Dubai, from a boat trip by the Austrian Interior Ministry seven years ago to the fugitive former Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek, who is apparently in Russian service. And last but not least, it has an unmistakable impact on many of the affairs of Austrian domestic politics in recent years.

The protagonist is now the former police officer and constitutional protection officer Egisto Ott. He has been appearing in the media again and again for years. In 2017 he was suspended by the then head of the now dissolved Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution BVT. A foreign service had tipped off that confidential emails from Ott's work and private email addresses had been copied. In January 2021, Ott was arrested once on the orders of the Vienna public prosecutor's office and his cell phone was confiscated. Ott has rejected the allegations of, among other things, abuse of office on several occasions. He portrayed it as an intrigue against himself by ÖVP-affiliated networks in the Interior Ministry.

Vienna is considered a playground for agents

There have been no arrests in 2021. This took place on Good Friday this year. Now it is no longer just about the violation of official secrets, but about the accusation of espionage “to the detriment of Austria”. The latter is important because espionage activity is not punishable in Austria as long as it is not directed against one's own country. This is one of the reasons why Vienna is considered a playground for agents.

The Vienna Regional Court has now imposed pre-trial detention against Ott. The suspicions of systematic espionage presented by the public prosecutor's office appeared to be sufficiently concrete and incriminating. A spokeswoman for the Vienna Criminal Regional Court said it had rejected the core of the allegations.

The information that led to Ott's arrest came again from abroad, from British authorities. These are mainly chats between Marsalek and a man from Bulgaria who has since been arrested in Great Britain and is said to have led a Russian spy ring. They not only incriminate Ott, but also his former superior, Martin Weiss, who headed counterintelligence at BVT and has since fled abroad. Previous affairs revealed that the BVT was compromised in many respects. In 2021 the authority was dissolved and reorganized as DSN.

According to the arrest order, the documents sent from London in March show that Ott “systematically” provided the Russian secret service with secret, strictly confidential facts and findings from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as well as personal data from police databases. Weiss was his “contact person and client”. He, in turn, had close contact with Marsalek and the suspected Russian spy Orlin R.

Shortly before the Wirecard bankruptcy, Marsalek left Munich via Austria for Russia, with the support of Weiss. The chats with Orlin R. that have now become known show that Marsalek, for his part, wanted to have supported “our friend” Weiss by organizing his “evacuation” to Dubai. Austria does not have an extradition agreement with the United Arab Emirates. As far as Ott is concerned, explosive data is said to have been handed over to men commissioned by Marsalek for transport to Moscow in June 2022, in the apartment of Ott's former son-in-law. He was also arrested on Good Friday, but has since been released because the suspicions against him are apparently not sufficiently incriminating.

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