An Austrian member of the European Parliament is under investigation over suspect expenses claims totalling 1.3 million euros, including one item listed as "elephant".
In a request to the European Parliament to waive Hans-Peter Martin's immunity, the Vienna prosecutor's office said it suspected the independent MEP of embezzling public funds and making money "illicitly for himself or a third party by fraudulent means". Martin, 55, says the allegations are an invention by adversaries upset by his efforts to expose the parliament's waste of public funds.
"I see a direct link between the fact that I have made these things public and now false allegations being leaked to the press," Martin said. Asked about some of the details and figures set out by the prosecutor, Martin said they were accurate but that no embezzlement was involved. One claim for 2,200 euros was identified in accounts as being for an "elephant".
Martin says he in fact meant to claim for books about Auschwitz from an Austrian publisher called "Ephelant". The publisher does offer such a book , priced at 22 euros. Martin, a former journalist who has sat in the European Parliament since 1999, said he looked forward to clearing his name. "It if were up to me there would be no immunity in the first place," he said.