Peter Sidlo, the controversial former CFO of Casinos Austria (CA), has filed a lawsuit against his ex-employer seeking an unfair dismissal of € 2.3 million ($2.56 million).
In the casino chain, which is partly owned by the Austrian sate, Sidlo briefly held the top financial position.
Having been mysteriously hired in March 2019 despite no relevant experience, he was fired in December for “gross breach of duty” and for “inflicting severe damage to the CA’s image and loss of reputation,” as a political scandal erupted around him.
Austria’s economic crimes and corruption prosecutor is currently investigating whether the appointment of Sidlo was part of a broader political conspiracy (as alleged by whistleblowers) which involved former far-right vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and the privately held Austrian gaming giant Novomatic.
Novomatic held an important stake in CA until last month it divested of its shares. The accusation is that Novomatic decided to nominate Sidlo, a member of Strache’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) and a Vienna district councillor, to the board of the CA in exchange for the FPÖ’s political favours.
Strache’s Freedom Party won 26 per cent of the vote in the 2017 national elections running on a conservative anti-immigration ticket, which allowed it to form a coalition government with the Conservative Party.
As vice-chancellor, at the time of Sidlo’s appointment Strache, who denied being a Neo-Nazi, was the second-most powerful member of government.
Whistleblowers say that Novomatic hoped that Strache would help remove the CA monopoly on casino gaming Austria, possibly enabling the private company to run a casino in Vienna, as well as revoke a law prohibiting gaming arcades from the city. Something Strache and Novomatic deny.
Whether or not Sidlo is a pawn in a political conspiracy, a contract is a contract and Sidlo thinks he deserves payment. The claim that he infringed his duties or damaged the reputation of CA “does not exist,” his lawyers argue, adding that no real “concrete reason” for his dismissal was offered by the supervisory board.
Sidlo meticulously came to a figure of € 2,353,794.83. As well as salaries and bonuses covering his three-year contract, he includes money that he would have saved by continuing to use the company car (€ 960), and the value of the company’s parking space is even set out.
Only days after Sidlo accepted the position, Strache resigned as vice-chancellor after being caught in an elaborate sting operation. Secretly filmed video leaked to the press shows the vice-chancellor offering state cash contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch.
Strache also tells the woman how to use nonprofit organisations to hide transactions from auditors to make illegal donations to the FPÖ. He says other Austrian firms, including Novomatic, have done so.
Who planned and orchestrated the sting is as yet unknown.