Austrian court frees a former intelligence officer at the center of a major spying scandal

BERLIN (AP) — A former Austrian intelligence officer at the center of the country’s biggest espionage scandal in decades was released from custody Wednesday after a court approved his bid to be freed.

The Vienna state court ruled that Egisto Ott should be released because it doesn’t see a danger of him offending at present, though he remains under investigation, the Austria Press Agency reported. The court said there were no indications that he committed offenses after a previous spell in custody in 2021.

Court spokesperson Christoph Zonsics-Kral said he was released from jail on Wednesday morning.

Ott was arrested on March 29 under a warrant that, among other things, alleges he handed over cellphone data of former high-ranking Austrian officials to Russian intelligence, helped plot a burglary at a prominent journalist’s apartment, and wrote up “suggestions for improvement” after a Russian-ordered killing in Germany.

Ott is suspected of having provided sensitive information to Jan Marsalek, a fugitive fellow Austrian wanted on suspicion of fraud since the collapse in 2020 of German payment company Wirecard, where he was the chief operating officer. The warrant says chat messages provided by British authorities link Marsalek directly to the Russian intelligence agency FSB.

German and Austrian media have reported that Marsalek is believed to have had connections to Russian intelligence since at least 2014. He is now thought to be in Russia.

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