Department store king Benko in the sights of the judiciary

Department store king Benko in the sights of the judiciary

AInvestors react nervously to the news of house searches at Austrian investor René Benko. The value of the Signa Development Finance bond has lost a single-digit percentage since Tuesday. This comes at a time when the department store group belonging to his empire gallery Karstadt Kaufhof, which has twice received financial aid from German taxpayers, is now once again in trouble.

Michael Seiser

Business correspondent for Austria and Hungary based in Vienna.

In addition to trading houses and stationary trading platforms, the realm of the entrepreneur includes real estate in Europe and overseas as well as engagements in the media. The organizational structure of the large number of holdings gathered around the umbrella company is very intricate and complicated. Signa is one of the well-known players on the European real estate market with real estate assets of 24 billion euros.

Raid at two locations

House searches at Signa Holding by order of the Austrian Public Prosecutor for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA) became known on Tuesday. The company itself did not comment on this when asked. The WKStA speaks of the suspicion of bribery in the search warrant, which the FAZ has received. In the years 2016 to 2018, Benko offered high-ranking employees in the Ministry of Finance a benefit for partisan support in the tax audit process of his group, namely a well-remunerated management position in this company, so that there was no tax assessment or as little as possible.

The prosecution’s investigators were apparently looking for documents from experts who had valued one or more of the group’s properties in Vienna. Benko had already been questioned in the Ibiza investigative committee because he was told by the former chairman of the FPÖ Heinz-Christian Strache was named as a supposed party donor in the well-known “Ibiza video” – about the freedom’s willingness to corrupt. Topics in his survey included the immense increase in value of the Postal Savings Bank – a historic Art Nouveau building – in Vienna a few years after it was acquired by the investor or the purchase of the furniture store Kika-Leiner, in which the high-ranking employee in the Ministry of Finance Thomas Schmid was involved and extra The court is said to have been opened up in order to be able to process the transaction over the Christmas holidays.

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