The Operation to Collect Kompromat on the FPÖ
The story around the Strache kompromat video is a tale of a successful intelligence operation. The evidence for the operation includes: a by-the-book recruitment; professional technical surveillance; proper agent handling tradecraft, including closing the loop; thrilling action during the actual elicitation interview itself. Shown for the first time are two clever and novel techniques to improve elicitation.
There are actually two operations: the collection of the kompromat, and the dissemination of the kompromat. The collection operation is much more interesting, so we’ll focus on that one. The dissemination was done by a different team anyway, and it mostly involved handing the data over to the press.
First I’ll lay out the broader historical context when this operation was happening. Then we’ll begin the case study of the primary operation, stating the objectives, planning the operation, and then putting it into action. The execution of the operation is documented with open source information which I’ll rely on heavily here. The elicitation interview is complex and fascinating enough to warrant a section of its own, and it gets one. The finish to the operation is pretty standard, so I’ll just explain the tradecraft and how the goals of the operation were achieved.
Timeline of Events Relevant to the Ibiza-Affäre
Properly analyzing the Ibiza-Affäre requires some Austrian contemporary political history to contextualize all the relevant events. A timeline allows the analyst to see events’ relationship relative to each other and the broader environment in which they occurred. The chronological structure reveals possibilities, and exposes impossible hypothesis. As a reference for further investigation it is invaluable.
There are two timelines of interest. The first is a broad coverage of the general political environment in Austria covering the year of the kompromat operation. This general timeline provides context for the detailed timeline analysis of the kompromat meeting. Without access to the complete videos I’ve attempted to combined the summaries from Der Spiegel and SZ. The timeline here will probably not match the events of the video exactly, but an approximation is perfectly fine. More important is the details of each elicitation attempt — who said what?
The FPÖ and the United Russia party (Putin’s party) sign a cooperation agreement. Source
Far right presidential candidate Norbet Hofner loses the election. However, the extreme right wing party FPÖ is polling higher than any other party, guaranteeing them a strong position in the national elections. If the FPÖ secures enough of the vote, they could become the king maker, getting real concessions in exchange for helping form a coalition government.
- FPÖ is polling higher than any other party, guaranteed to place in the top three, with the very real possibly that they’ll have the powerful position of kingmaker for a coalition government.
March 24 2017
Johann Gudenus has first contact with “Alonya Marakova,” the purported “niece” of Putin’s friend, Igor Marakov — a man who has no siblings. Gudenus is accompanied by his wife, and the middle man Julian Thaler. A long time friend of Thaler, the lawyer Ramin Mirfakhrai, introduces Gudenus to a rich Russian woman who wants to buy his property. The lawyer claims to have done a background check on her, shows Gudenus a copy of her Latvian passport, and assures him that she is legitimate.
- The approach. The first operational meeting of the operative and the target can be very revealing and worth examining in detail. I’ll return to this later.
The FPÖ realigns itself away from hardline anti-EU positions (no one wants to go full Brexit). Polling strongly, HC Strache, the head of the FPÖ, is likely to secure a high political post for himself at the next election.
- The FPÖ is now polling so strongly that HC Strache is virtually guaranteed a powerful political position after the next election.
After a decade of the “big coalition” (between the socialists and the conservatives) the conservatives have an internal coup. The coalition collapses, and in the aftermath, the head of the conservatives Sebastian Kurz is the new vice chancellor. New elections are scheduled for October.
- An internal coup within the ÖVP triggers a collapse of the government.
- The vice-chancellor resigns and Sebastian Kurz takes over as his successor
- New elections are in October
July 22 2017
The Ibiza villa is rented starting on this date. This is likely when the place is wired for video and audio.
July 24 2017
The meeting takes place. Johann Gudenus, Tatjana Gudenus, Hanz-Christian Strache, meet with Alonya Marakova, and her confidant. They eat, drink, be merry, and create wonderful kompromat together.
July 25 2017
The last day of the Ibiza villa rental. This is “tear down day,” where all the bugs are recovered and the environment returned to its original state.
August (late) 2017
Gudenus speaks with the “Russian niece’s” confidant. The confidant says the Ibiza meeting went poorly [Ed: especially for the political careers of Strache and Gudenus!], that the women is “relatively pissed off” and there needs to be a “gesture of good will.” Something to show that the FPÖ leaders are serious to give her “confidence in this Strabag story , what was being discussed in Ibiza.” The confidant suggests a press release on a specific topic, Haselsteiner, with a specific phrase.
- Direct contact with the woman seems to have been replaced with the bagman. The discussions for various corruption deals are still ongoing.
- The bagman is stringing the FPÖ along by saying how unhappy his boss is and he’s just trying to be reasonable and find some common ground. This is a great tactic, blame someone else who isn’t around as the problem and try to work with the other side to arrive at a solution that will placate this unreasonable absent third party. Us vs them.
September 4 2017
Publication of a press release by FPÖ which on STRABAG and Haselsteiner. There is usually a little joke encoded in the end of FPÖ press releases, this one is no different.
The phrase is one supplied by the “Russian niece’s” confidant: Wer zahlt, schafft an. Translation: “He who pays calls the shots.” The meaning of this curious is left for the reader to decipher.
Approximately September 2017
Johann Gudenus and Alonya fade out of contact without consummating the purchase of the property or any of the corruption related deals.
October 15 2017
The election for a new government results in a landslide victory for Kurz who styles himself and his party as a Macron for conservative Austrians. The ÖVP win 62 seats, SPÖ 52, and FPÖ 51. There are rumours that Kurz will cut a deal with FPÖ to form a coalition government, rather than maintain the status quo ÖVP SPÖ alliance.
- Kurz spends 13 million euro on a campaign styled after Macron’s. He wins a landslide.
- Many analysts expect Kurz to extract major concessions from SPÖ to form a government.
October 24 2017
To the shock of the leftists, Sebastian Kurz formally invites the FPÖ for coalition talks. They accept and the talks begin the next day, on the 25th.
Kurz forms a coalition government with the FPÖ. The FPÖ are given several ministries (including Defense and the Interior), and Strache becomes vice chancellor.
February 28 2018
The coalition government (but mostly FPÖ) assembles a strike team and raids the offices of the Austrian intelligence service. They seize a number of systems, including the highly classified “Neptune”database. As a result of this, and the Russian friendly FPÖ managing the Austrian Services, the rest of the EU has begun excluding Austria from intelligence dissemination.
March 8 2018
Jan Böhmermann, a famous German satirist, releases an advert for the 2018 Romy awards. In this advert, he appears to hint at the kompromat by sitting in front of the Latvian flag. Possibly a reference to the Latvian passport “Alonya Marakova” presented as her bonafides at the first meeting in 2017. This is dubious for a connection, and I am inclined to dismiss it.
November 12 2018
It is publicly announced that Rene Benko, one of the whale donors name checked by Strache, has acquired 25% of the ‘Krone.’ The ‘Krone’ is the tabloid that Strache was pushing Marakova to purchase and then push to the right and influence the Austrian population to help the FPÖ win elections.
Der Spiegel and SZ are given video and audio surveillance of the July 2017 meeting in Ibiza between Markova, Strache, and Gudenus. At least one other media company, Falter, is given the data but does nothing with it.
April 12 2019
German satirist Jan Böhmermann, famous for legal troubles involving Erdogan and a goat-fucking poem, makes a strange comment at the Austrian Romy awards. In a video thank you speech Jan Böhmermann apologizes for being unable to attend, offering the excuse (according to Google translate):
“I am currently pretty coke and Red Bull refueled with some FPÖ business friends in a Russian oligarchs villa in Ibiza and negotiate whether and how I can take over the ‘Kronen Zeitung’ and gain the power of opinion in Austria.” Source
May 16 2019
At the end of his regular show on Thursday, Jan Böhmermann says in parting:
For me, it’s a normal show. It may be that Austria burns tomorrow. Just let yourself be surprised.
May 17 2019
Der Spiegel and SZ release clips of video of the extremely candid meeting where the extreme right wing leadership:
- made deals for bribes, such as government public contracts with guaranteed graft for Russian companies;
- explained how to illegally donate money to the campaign (along with a list of people who allegedly do exactly that);
- brags about strategic collaboration with Putin;
- takes cocaine (according to two source, Jan Böhmermann and a twitter account that has access to the video.)
- Expounds on a plan to hobble the Austrian press with Hungarian style controls.
- suggests Alonya Markova buys the Krone, the most influential tabloid in Austria, and exert editorial influence to improve his election results “to 34%”
May 18 2019
Der Spiegel insists that the timing of the release was not deliberate.
May 23–26 2019
European Union parliamentary elections.
Austrian national elections.
That is the end of the useable timeline, but there are many details about the kompromat meeting itself that are provide hints about who arranged everything. From close analysis of the timeline, and the kompromat, it is possible to draw reasonable conclusions about who is involved at what level. Although it is speculative, the supporting evidence is presented and available for examination. The next post will look into the details to expose what is present in the negative space.
The timetable on its own makes quite clear that the motivation for the kompromat is unlikely to be political. Arrangements begin before political events that would make the kompromat extremely valuable, and the release time is not precisely under the control of the leaker. The tapes were available for a while before they were given to the media, who then took approximately one month to before they published. The timing may be relevant at a meta level, but seems not to be relevant in relation to geopolitical events in Austria.
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