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René Benko Under Scrutiny For Moving Money

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 28 March 2024

Austrian entrepreneur René Benko faces allegations of manipulating millions within Signa

René Benko Under Scrutiny For Moving Money
Keystone/MARCEL KUSCH

The real estate entrepreneur René Benko and the decline of his largely insolvent Signa network of companies. Benko allegedly moved millions of euros within the Signa conglomerate last summer.

According to a joint investigation by “News” and “Krone”, Signa and the holding company reportedly used this as fresh capital to persuade the owners to make an urgently needed capital injection. According to the report, this involved events prior to a 350 million euro capital increase, which Signa ultimately secured.

As “Krone” and “News” write, Benko is said to have withdrawn a portion of this – 35 million euros – from one of the many Signa subsidiaries and transferred it to the holding company via several channels. The reason, according to the interpretation of both media: Benko wanted to set a good example to the outside world and create trust among shareholders in the company, which was already struggling at the time.

Specifically, the sum of 35 million euros was initially withdrawn from a subsidiary of Signa Holding at the end of June 2023 – as a loan for another Benko company. The money was then sent on its way via several accounts and companies:

First to a subsidiary of Benko’s Laura Private Foundation. From there – also as an alleged loan – to the Benko family private foundation, which holds ten percent of the shares in Signa Holding. Via this route, the money ultimately ended up at the holding company – disguised as fresh capital, as the “Krone” writes.

Benko’s Lawyer Protests

No one has been misled: “Any deception in connection with the restructuring in summer 2023 – towards anyone whatsoever – is clearly and firmly rejected. Due to the complexity of the individual issues, there will continue to be no discussion of these via the media.”

Accusations against Benko were also made at the weekend by Karl Gernandt, asset manager of the Hamburg logistics billionaire Klaus-Michael Kühne, who lives in Switzerland.

According to a report in “Der Spiegel”, he believed that Benko had “hoodwinked” investors in the Signa Group.

Benko had used his corporate construct with more than 1,000 companies for this and had hidden debts “in all the Luxembourg intermediate holding companies”, among other things.

He had “ultimately acted fraudulently”. Benko’s lawyer Wess denied this to the APA.

©Keystone/SDA

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