Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai: What you should know about the Ibiza lawyer

More than a year ago, the affair having happened on Ibiza shocked the entire country of Austria and led to the breakup of the AVP (the Austrian People's Party) and FPA (the Freedom Party of Austria) coalition managed by the Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The publication of the video from Ibiza meant the end for the careers of some of FPA politicians Heinz-Christian Strache and Johann Gudenus. As a result, the then vice-chancellor H.-C. Strache resigned, and J. Gudenus left his post as FPA Club chairman as well as the party itself.

The “Ibizagate” affair is the biggest political scandal in post-war Austria and represents a sudden break in the tenure of AVP leader Sebastian Kurz. There are still unanswered questions concerning the main players and sponsors of Ibiza. One of the key figures and main masterminds of the Ibiza affair is Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai. But who exactly is behind this person?

For the authorities, the lawyer Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai from Vienna is the linchpin of the investigation of the Ibiza affair. The entire operation was planned down to the smallest details for months, and the lawyer influenced on the full course of events. He is one of the main masterminds and confessed his involvement in the scandal video shortly after its release. Private detective Julian Hessenthaler was revealed as Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai's accomplice; those two are also friends.

The Ibiza lawyer Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai approached real estate agent Irena Markovic in January 2017 because he had a potentially interested client for a huge forest plot owned by the Gudenus family, namely the fake Russian oligarch’s niece with the alias name Alyona Makarova, who later became an Ibiza dangle. The lawyer already knew the luxury real estate agent from the contract signing in his law firm. Knowing that she was friends with Tajana and Johann Gudenus, he asked her to establish contact with the former FPA politician and held out the prospect of a brokerage commission in the millions for the supposed 300 million deal (purchase of the property and founding of an investment company). Julian Hessenthaler acted as an advisor for Alyona Makarova and was also a close confidant of hers.

The lawyer with Iranian roots was not present in Ibiza and thus did not appear in the explosive video. In the hidden filmed sequences, the main actors were H.-C. Strache, Johann Gudenus and the fake Russian oligarch’s niece. Mirfakhrai's accomplice, Julian Hessenthaler can be seen but only as a marginal figure. Before the meeting on the rancho, the Viennese lawyer Gudenus had showed a fake passport of the dangle.

As it was mentioned before in the daily newspaper Courier, the Ibiza lawyer tried to benefit from the secret video recordings made in summer, 2017. According to documents leaked to The Courier, Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai contacted various PR advisors from several political camps, some of which he knew since school period. The lawyer with Iranian roots, as they say, said "that he represents a Russian lady who was disappointed in a property purchasing via Johann Gudenus. She had recorded many conversations with Gudenus and wanted to sell them". They say, Mirfakhrai demanded from four to five million euros for all the video materials; however, due to the exorbitant price, he failed. In March 2018, he tried again to offer the video sequences to another PR consultant and again there was no success. On May 24, 2019, just a week after the Ibiza video was published, Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai made a confession of fact via a press release and admitted his involvement in the deception of the former Vice Chancellor H.-C. Strache and the former FPA club chairman Johann Gudenus, which became known as “the Ibiza affair”. Mirfakhrai said through his lawyer Richard Soyer that "the Ibiza video was a civil motivated project in which demonstrated the investigative journalism." Further he said that "due to the reactions of some politicians its own dynamic developed." On the part of his client, however, "according to the best of our knowledge and belief, only democratic-political and legal suggestions are worth considering." It is striking that the lawyer did not invoke his professional duty of confidentiality, the attorney-client privilege. In addition, the confession included the following: "Regarding the video recordings, it should incidentally be noted that a hidden camera in investigative journalism is used to uncover complaints and is protected by freedom of speech." It is unclear whether the Ibiza lawyer even has a press pass and has published anything before. Due to attorney-client confidentiality, advocate Richard Soyer did not make any further comments regarding Mirfakhrai. "In any case, my client has not set any criminal conduct, nor participated in any criminal conduct." The letter is likely to be a response to Strache's criminal complaint, in which the Ibiza lawyer is the prime suspect. One detail should be noted here: By all standards, the letter is indeed genuine and serious.

The articles on www.standard.at brought to light that Richard Soyer, who legally represents Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai in the affair “Ibizagate”, also played a role in the BAT investigation as a lawyer. Mirfakhrai is described by friends as a "lawyer with ups and downs." He gained his first experience as a clerk of the lawyer Gabriel Lansky, who is attributed to the red half of the empire.

There are still further accusations against the Ibiza lawyer. The daily newspaper STANDARD was informed from a safe source that Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai had been active before the Ibiza affair. The lawyer, as they said, offered incriminating material about H.-C. Strache to members of the OVP, SPA and Neos before the Council elections in Vienna in 2015. However, the material which included blurred images was rejected by party representatives. According to the report, one of the lawyer's clients is supposed to have some material about an alleged transfer of money to Strache.

Georg Niedermuhlbichler, who was a campaign manager for the SPA in Vienna in 2015, confirmed that there had been rumors at the time about incriminating material about Strache. However, "I have never seen the pictures". Niedermühlbichler had never had anything to do with Mirfakhrai - "at least not consciously." A spokesman for ex-mayor Michael Haupl denied the question of whether there had been offers of incriminating material from the lawyer to the SPA in 2015. Manfred Juraczka, the then head of the Austrian People's Party (AVP) in Vienna, told the STANDARD: "We were not offered anything - with or without monetary demands. For the provincial party, I can rule that out." A spokesman for the Neos also said that they had not known the lawyer so far.

The Ibiza lawyer also appears in another context. An ex-security man of H.-C. Strache, a managing director of a security company and active FPA participant, is acquainted with Mirfakhrai: The Strache’s confidant has hired the Viennese lawyer in several cases since 2011. However, the FPA politician does not want to be dragged into the Ibiza affair in any circumstances. "I have nothing to do with it," he said. "We only took Strache to the Schwechat airport and delivered him there. We were never in the private trips." In addition, the name of Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai appears on the disclosure platform Offshoreleaks with a company in Malta. Last but not the least, the Viennese lawyer is also involved in an alleged industrial espionage case regarding the connection with an Upper Austrian construction machinery company, together with a private investigator Julian Hessenthaler, the second main mastermind of the Ibiza affair.

As reporting on www.krone.at and www.standard.at has already revealed, the private residence of Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai in Vienna's 9th district Alsergrund as well as his law firm in Vienna downtown were searched in a raid in August 2019 as part of the investigation of the Ibiza backers. Electronic data carriers and cell phones were seized, but a full video lasted almost seven hours long could not be confiscated. Instead, the investigators made another explosive discovery involving drugs: they came across two sachets of white powder and as it turned out to be the party drug cocaine.

From the very beginning, Dr. Ramin Mirfakhrai was involved in the planning of the Ibiza affair and thus plays a central role in the criminal network. The Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office is proceeding the investigation on suspicion of his misuse of sound recordings and wiretaps, forgery of documents, deception, data processing for profit and damage, and in addition to all this, he is suspected in extortion.

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