Austrian heiress lets strangers give away £21m fortune

An Austrian heiress who denounced the lack of taxes on wealth and inheritance has given away the bulk of her money - some £21m.

For years, Marlene Engelhorn has criticised what she calls the birth lottery by which she inherited tens of millions and does not have to give any of it to the state, and called for change.

In January, she announced that a panel of her fellow Austrians would decide how to distribute the huge sum, without any intervention on her part.

She is a descendent of Friedrich Engelhorn, who founded German chemicals giant BASF in 1865, and inherited a large sum of family money in 2022.

A spokesperson said she was giving away "the overwhelming bulk" of her fortune, though she retains an undisclosed sum.

"A large part of my inherited wealth, which elevated me to a position of power simply by virtue of my birth, contradicting every democratic principle, has now been redistributed in accordance with democratic values," the 32-year-old said in a statement.

The 77 organisations chosen by the panel to receive a share of the money - ranging from £33,700 (40,000 euros) to £1.35m (1.6m euros) - were announced on Tuesday.

The panel had examined "above all the question of the effects of our uneven distribution of wealth" and debates on "democracy and participation in it, tax justice and social inequality," Ms Engelhorn said.

Read more from Sky News:
Mysterious monolith discovered near Las Vegas
At least 550 Muslims die at Hajj

One of the objectives the 50-person panel, aged between 16 and 85, aimed to support was "a fairer distribution of wealth, more transparency and reporting on that issue and better data on very large accumulations of wealth", one member of the panel, retail employee Elisabeth Klein said.

In support of that aim, two of the four donations of more than a million euros went to the Momentum Institute, a left-wing think-tank, and Attac Austria, which opposes neoliberal economic policy and "deregulated financial markets".

Other issues covered included housing, integration, women's rights and fighting poverty.

"Now, it is up to the political actors to do justice to what this group representative of the Austrian population has embodied," Ms Engelhorn said, calling for more debate on these issues.