In its fight against corruption and white collar crime, the Austrian Judiciary can from now on also rely on an anonymous whistleblowing system that has been imple-mented with the aim of obtaining such information more easily.
On 20 March 2013, Austria’s Federal Ministry of Justice launched a whistleblowing website enabling investigators from the Public Prosecutor's Office against Corruption and White Collar Crime (Zentrale Staatsanwaltschaft zur Verfolgung von Wirtschaftsstrafsachen und Korruption; WKStA) to get in direct contact with whis-tleblowers, with the anonymity of the latter being assured. In case the WKStA in-vestigators have additional questions based on a whistleblower’s submission, the in-vestigators can contact the whisteblower directly. In that event, the whisteblower is entitled to decide whether they would like to remain anonymous or to identify themselves to the investigators.
How does the system work? Anyone observing anything suspicious in his/her com-pany can report the observations via a link on the website of the Federal Ministry of Justice (www.justiz.gv.at). After having been instructed about how to preserve his/her anonymity, the whistleblower must select the specific area to which their submission is in reference. In accordance with Austria’s Criminal Code, the following areas are at choice: Corruption, White Collar Crime, Welfare Fraud, Financial Crime, Fraudulent Accounting, Capital-Market Offences, and Money Laundering. Having made that selection, the whistleblower can provide their observations regarding suspicious and/or potentially illegal activities. The technical implementation of the system guarantees that the WKStA won't be able to trace the source of the submis-sion. However, uploading documents must be handled with care, as the whistle-blower could easily be determined via metadata (ie invisible and embedded docu-ment information), with the result that the whistleblower’s anonymity would no longer be preserved.
The website is a result of far-reaching developments and advances within the scope of fighting corruption. Moreover, the Austrian judiciary's awareness of this issue and of the utility of accommodating and encouraging whistleblowers has changed signifi-cantly due to serious recent cases of corruption in Austria.
Even experienced corruption fighters have been astonished by the run that the WKStA is currently experiencing on the newly-established website. The website (https://www.bkms-system.net/wksta) that the Ministry of Justice established to al-low whistleblowers to anonymously communicate with public authorities has been virtually besieged since its launch on 20 March 2013. According to media reports, more than 24,500 people have already visited the website, with 170 leaving con-crete information regarding criminal acts. Of these whistleblowers, over 100 obvi-ously have plenty of insider knowledge to communicate, as they even installed an online anonymous mailbox.
We don’t expect that all cases of corruption will all be revealed at once through whistleblowing. However, the establishment of the WKStA website is definitely a first step in the right direction.