UPDATE 1-First charges brought in Telekom Austria probes
* Ex-managers accused of share price manipulation
* Accused banker says bought shares to restore natural value
(Adds Wanovitz comment)
VIENNA, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Vienna prosecutors brought their first charges against former top managers at Telekom Austria
as part of multiple corruption probes that have damaged the company's image and may have cost it 20 million euros ($26 million).
The prosecutor's office said it had charged three former Telekom Austria managers, one other ex-employee and a banker with price manipulation in relation to a share price surge in 2004 that triggered a payout of 9 million euros for managers.
Telekom Austria, which has been shaken by a web of scandals that include allegations of slush funds and political payoffs, is suing 20 people it suspects of defrauding the company, from whom it hopes to claw back 20 million euros.
Current Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter last year paid back a bonus he received as a result of the share price rise, and has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors are charging ex-Telekom Austria Chief Executive Heinz Sundt, ex-deputy CEO Rudolf Fischer, ex-Chief Financial Officer Stefano Colombo, and Johann Wanovitz, a banker suspected of having bought Telekom Austria shares to boost the price.
A further, unnamed former employee of the Austrian telecom company was also charged with corruption, the prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.
Wanovitz is suspected of having received payments totaling more than 1.5 million euros between 2004 and 2008 in cash and for fictional business in return for buying the shares on the orders of the three former top managers.
"I very much welcome the opportunity to explain to an independent judge the facts surrounding Telekom Austria's employee share scheme from the year 2000," Wanovitz said in a statement.
"Now I can show that I did not engage in any criminal behaviour, but rather a normal stock market transaction."
His lawyer, Rainer Rienmueller, said Wanovitz had suspected that another party had been deliberately depressing the share value so bought shares to restore the shares to their natural level.
The three ex-Telekom Austria managers were questioned about corruption allegations by a parliamentary committee earlier this year, and declined to answer questions directly about the alleged share price manipulation.
The accused, who have 14 days to appeal against the charges, face 10 years in jail if found guilty.
Prosecutors are investigating suspected corruption at Telekom Austria by a total of about 40 individuals.
($1 = 0.7731 euros)
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and David Cowell)
Keywords: TELEKOMAUSTRIA CORRUPTION/CHARGES