Fact vs. Fiction

“Supernaked” portrays a real, unsolved criminal case in animated form. Here, we describe how we dealt with fact and fiction.

With 15 suspects, 700 interrogations, and 206 file folders, the Buwog affair is one of Austria’s most spectacular corruption scandals. It is also one of its biggest: investigators have gathered 156 terabytes of data related to the case – sixty times as many as the Panama Papers, the biggest data leak that journalists have ever researched.

For “Supernaked”, DOSSIER and Falter have compressed 17 years of events, the public prosecutor’s accusations, and the suspects’ defense into a 12-minute film. In so doing, we have prioritized certain events, condensed some parts of the story, and left others out. Here, we describe how we went about making the film, and where “Supernaked” deviates from the hard facts.

The public prosecutor’s view 

A fictional district attorney, whose appearance is also imaginary, narrates Supernaked. He reports on his investigation in the Buwog case. In real life, several public prosecutors were involved. The statements of the fictional district attorney in the film are based on the documents investigated. However, they do not reflect the statements of the real public prosecutors.

The district attorney’s line of argument is “Supernaked’s” central theme. According to investigators, the events unfolded in the same way the film presents them. These hypotheses must still be proven true or false over the course of the trial. The defendants can only be charged once the jury views the accusations as virtually certain. In the meantime, the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” applies.

This is why the events we have chosen to portray in “Supernaked” can largely be proven with documents. The challenge lay in addressing storylines for which the versions of the prosecution and defense diverged, but which were essential to the overall story.

Who is telling the truth?

This very question needed to be asked about a scene that unfolded at the ministry of finance between Michael Ramprecht, who worked in Karl-Heinz Grasser’s cabinet, and the real estate consultant Ernst Karl Plech. The scene is based on statements made by Ramprecht to investigators and the news magazine profil. He stated, that Plech had urged him to influence the selection committee’s decision on which bank would host the Buwog auction. “The minister wants Lehman”, Plech supposedly said. According to Ramprecht Plech later also threatened him and offered him a reward.

Ramprecht claims to have followed the instruction. His testimony is supported indirectly by a written complaint to the Finance Minister's office from that time: another member of the commission criticized, that Ramprecht was "pleading for comprehensive decision-making authority" at the meetings, claiming that the Minister of Finance had given him the "lead".

Plech and Grasser deny this event in particular and exerting influence in general. This is mentioned in the film.

Ultimately, Lehman Brothers was awarded the contract. According to investigators, this was a decisive step in executing the defendants’ plan of action.

The competition’s offer revealed

The sale of 60,000 state-owned apartments is at the center of the Buwog case. The district attorney has presented the argument that the apartments went to the Österreich Konsortium, which comprises the Raffeisen Landesbank Oberösstereich and Immofinanz, among others. The bidder, who came in at the very end, allegedly knew of the competition’s bid ahead of time. According to the charges, this is information that only the finance minister himself could have had.

The prosecution seeks to prove that Grasser passed the information on to Walter Meischberger, Peter Hochegger, and Enrst Karl Pleck. In “Supernaked”, we show a meeting between the three men at the Hotel Intercontinental, where Hochegger’s office was located at the time. 

Among other things, the scene is based on a statement made by Hochegger himself – as is the discussion presented in the film about Hochegger’s share of the Buwog commission. However, the conversation was shortened and the dialog is fictional.

There are several statements showing that the information about the competitor’s bid was passed on to the Österreich-Konsortium, including Peter Hochegger’s. The parties concerned deny that the information came from Grasser. 

Cheering in the Car

In 2004, the Österreich Konsortium was awarded the sale: with a bid of 961 million euros, the winner was just about million euros ahead of the second highest bid. In “Supernaked”, Walter Meischberger finds out about the close results from his car, while listening to the Ö1 radio news broadcast. The report is presented just as it was at the time, except for a key piece of information: it wasn’t until 2009 that it was revealed just how close the bids were. The editorial team was told by a reliable source that Meischberger was driving when he heard the news.

The rise of Karl-Heinz Grasser

The portrayal of Karl-Heinz Grasser’s rise in the media is based on real media reports and public appearances. In “Supernaked”, we show a speech during which Grasser spoke of his past “at a small company” (his parents’ car dealership). It also includes quotes from a speech Grasser made in 2006, which Falter recorded

The images of Grasser at his 2005 wedding to Fiona Swarovski in Weißenkirchen in der Wachau (Lower Austria) are based on the originals. The images are derived from the staged media event that was attended by many prominent guests from politics and business.

According to reports, Dietrich Mateschitz, the CEO of Red-Bull, expressed his congratulations by having 12,000 rose petals thrown from an airplane. The covers and reports from Vanity Fair, News, and Kronenzeitung that feature Grasser are also based on the originals.

Party above the city’s rooftops

The rooftop party scene is entirely the product of our authors’ and illustrators’ imaginations. While the location and layout of Karl Heinz Grasser’s attic apartment are based in reality, it is not known whether such a party was celebrated there. The scene aims to show the close relationships between the guests: Walter Meischberger was Karl-Heinz Grasser’s best man, Ernst Karl Plech is a friend of his father’s, and Peter Hochegger was also Grasser’s friend and business partner.

The 2008 financial crisis

As is portrayed in “Supernaked”, the 2008 financial crisis marked a turn in the Buwog case. After hints of a commission payment were found at Contantia Privatbank, Walter Meischeberger and Peter Hochegger turned themselves in for tax evasion in 2009. However, the scene in which Karl-Heinz Grasser and Fiona Swarovski find out about this from television news reports is fictional. It is not known how Grasser found out about the events. However, soon thereafter, he engaged in conversations and actions that the public prosecutors later viewed as a cover-up attempt.

The money trail

Thanks to the statements of Walter Meischberger and Peter Hochegger after they turned themselves in, and also as a result of the findings of the public prosecutor’s investigation, it is clear that the money from the Buwog commissions was channeled from Vienna via Cyprus and Delaware to Liechtenstein. The depiction in the film thus reflects reality.

The wiretap transcripts

The depiction of the authorities’ investigations, in particular regarding wiretapping, is based on the investigators’ documents. The statements were copied from the police reports. The phrase “Now I’m supernaked” was Walter Meischberger’s, who said it in an exchange with Karl-Heinz Grasser. He was referring to payments that Meischberger had received from Porr, a construction company. Porr is also implicated in the Linz Terminal Tower case, which is also part of the indictment. With “Where was my payment?”, the phrase stands for a system of fake invoices and wrongful commission payments. This is why we chose Supernaked as the title of the film.

The showdown 

The dialog between the district attorney and Karl-Heinz Grasser at the end of the film is fictional. However, the line of argumentation that Karl-Heinz Grasser’s character presents reflects reality. Since the beginning of the investigations, Grasser has emphasized that there is no hard proof and he is not guilty of anything. The scene aims to present Grasser’s perspective on the accusations.