Undercover reporters testify at EU lawmaker's graft trial
(VIENNA) - Two British journalists who went undercover to expose corruption gave damaging testimony Monday in the trial of an Austrian former EU lawmaker, claiming he had offered to influence legislation for money.
Ernst Strasser, who resigned as a member of the European Parliament in 2011, offered his services for 100,000 euros ($135,000) per year, Sunday Times reporters Claire Newell and Jonathan Calvert told the court.
Strasser from the start "described himself as a lobbyist" and "said he charged clients 70,000 euros and ... in November (2010) changed this to 100,000 euros," Calvert testified by video link from London.
Strasser has denied the charges, saying he believed the Sunday Times journalists, who were posing as employees of a fake firm called Bergman and Lynch, were in fact secret agents.
The two reporters said they asked Strasser to alter EU directives on waste management and on financial services.
Calvert said Strasser told them that he had been too late to change the waste legislation but that for the latter "he had achieved a better result than we had asked for."
"It is a breach of European Parliament rules to charge money to change legislation. We felt we had enough material to expose that," Newell said.
The two reporters secretly filmed a string of meetings with Strasser, tapes of which were made available to the court and were also handed to the European Parliament.
One of the meetings took place in a fake London office for their "pretend lobbying firm", Newell told the court, staffed by other Sunday Times journalists "to make it look busy".
The sting also targeted three other MEPs: Romania's Adrian Severin, Slovenia's Zoran Thaler and Pablo Zalba from Spain.
A verdict in the trial could come later Monday.
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