The return of the honey trap

24 May: Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom party has been forced to resign following the revelation that he proposed illegal deals in return for backing from a supposed Russian oligarch.

In July 2017, Strache and his parliamentary group leader, Johann Gudenus, were invited to a villa in Ibiza for a meeting with Alyona Makarov. She claimed to be the niece of Russian oligarch, Igor Makarov. Strache and Gudenus were lulled into a false sense of security by champagne, vodka, good food and by Alyona’s attractiveness – she had long blonde hair, a striking figure and she wore a black designer dress and high heels (Strache described her with some emphasis as “hot!”). Strache proposed that Alyona’s uncle should purchase a controlling interest in a newspaper which would then support the Freedom Party. In return, the party would support projects proposed by Makarov. Alyona said that her uncle would be very interested.

But there was only one problem with all this: Makarov doesn’t have a niece. The whole evening was a honey trap

The meeting was filmed with a number of concealed cameras. Last week these recordings were sent to the German publications Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel. Strache was forced to resign as vice-chancellor and the ruling Austrian coalition of which the Freedom party was a part, has collapsed.

One question that remains to be answered is: who was responsible for the honey trap? Strache has blamed “foreign intelligence services”, but there appears to be no hard evidence. Strache seems to base his belief on the complexity and high level of funding of the operation. But in the modern world, many types of groups are capable of this level of sophistication. These days high level politicians are often caught out by satirical “stings”. It seems most likely that this was a private group – either media or political – who knew of Strache’s tendencies and decided to take advantage of them.

Perhaps more mysterious is why the operators of the sting waited almost two years to release their information? It is true that the recordings were released at a time of maximum embarrassment for the Freedom Party – just before the European elections – but even so, it takes tremendous discipline to sit on this kind of intelligence for so long. It is hardly surprising that there have been suggestions of state-backed forces at work.

Whatever the case, the effect has been devastating. It appears that the age of the honey trap is far from over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *