(Bloomberg) -- An Austrian judge found former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz guilty of perjury, marking a new setback for the once high-flying political prodigy who may face further charges in a sprawling federal corruption investigation. 

Friday’s suspended eight-month jail sentence is a victory for Austria’s anti-corruption prosecution office, which leveled the politically-sensitive case in the run-up to this year’s elections, while relying as their primary witness on a prominent appointee of Kurz’s government who himself is a suspect in separate criminal investigations. 

Kurz said he would challenge the verdict.

At issue in the four-month trial were statements delivered by Kurz, under oath when he was chancellor in 2020, to parliamentarians investigating a secret video filmed on the Spanish island of Ibiza, which purported to show his coalition partner peddling influence to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece. 

Prosecutors claimed Kurz, now 37, was directly involved in key hiring decisions at Austria’s state-assets agency OeBAG, even while he claimed before the parliamentary committee that he kept the business at arm’s length. Thomas Schmid, the former head of OeBAG, testified against Kurz.

The ex-chancellor had lined up a number of witnesses who spoke in his defense, and participated in social media campaigns to persuade the Austrian public that he’s the victim of an elaborate set-up. 

Judge Michael Radasztics brushed that criticism aside, saying that he found Schmid’s testimony credible, and a defense strategy of simply calling up more witnesses in Kurz’s defense wouldn’t outweigh the allegations.

“This is not a political process but one involving a former politician.” Kurz “made false statements even as he was aware of his role” in government, judge Radasztics said in his verdict. 

Talking to reporters after the verdict, Kurz said the verdict was unjust and his words were wrongfully being scrutinized.

The Ibiza video led to thousands of WhatsApp messages being made public following raids of government officials by investigators, ultimately toppling the government.

As Kurz’s lawyers prepare their appeal, state investigators are weighing whether to bring other charges. Prosecutors have been looking into allegations that Kurz fueled disinformation by using public money to plant fabricated opinion polls in Austria’s tabloid media before he took office. 

The investigations have continued to weigh on the public perception of the ruling People’s Party even under the leadership of Kurz’s successor, Karl Nehammer. The far-right Freedom Party, whose former leader was the protagonist in the Ibiza video, has been able to move on and is leading public opinion polls with an anti-establishment message.

Kurz himself rose to power by promising to end Austria’s so-called Freunderlwirtschaft, or friendship economy, a contentious feature of national politics in which parties grant sinecures to loyalists.

Since leaving politics in 2021, Kurz has become a global strategist for Thiel Capital, the California-based investment firm run by Peter Thiel, a billionaire donor to Donald Trump.

(Adds court sentence in second paragraph, appeal in third, reasoning from judge and Kurz statement from sixth.)

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