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Trial opens into bribery scandal at banknote printing press

A Vienna court has heard how former executives of a National Bank of Austria subsidiary company paid bribes to national banks in Azerbaijan and Syria.

On the first day of a trial investigating the corruption, prosecutors told the court that the former vice-governor of OeBS, the unit responsible for printing banknotes, Wolfgang Duchatczek, was one of nine people who charged foreign banks an extra 20% which was then handed to Azeri and Syrian officials as kickbacks.

Officials in Ajerbaijan and Syria were allegedly promised the money in return for OeBS winning the money printing contracts from them.

According to their lawyers, the Austrian National Bank is demanding the defendants pay 100,000 Euros compensation. They argued in court that their reputation has been damaged by the scandal, pointing to the fact that foreign bank clients are requesting more information about what went on.

Duchatczek resigned from his position at OeBS last July after he was accused of being involved in the bribery scandal. His lawyer told the court that he was unaware that the payments were bribes and believed they were commissions for helping to secure the contract.

Another former top executive, Michael Wolf, has admitted that bribery had taken place. "Bribes were paid, and Mr. Wolf admits that," the lawyer for the former managing director of OeBS said.

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