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Graubündner Kantonalbank has Benko allegations investigated

Updated at 14 Mar 2024 11:30 am

The Bank Council of Graubündner Kantonalbank (GKB) has commissioned an external investigation in connection with the failed real estate mogul René Benko. The focus is on possible problematic lending. Politicians have also become involved.

Graubünden Finance Director Martin Bühler (FDP) said at a media conference on Thursday that the Bank Council of Graubündner Kantonalbank had commissioned an external investigation. This is intended to clarify the allegations that have become public in recent days. However, the government still has confidence in the bank, emphasized Bühler.

The consulting firm Ernst & Young was entrusted with the investigation. At the weekend, the Sonntagszeitung newspaper quoted from emails that allegedly show conversations between GKB President Peter Fanconi and Benko. These are said to show that Fanconi may have received benefits because he indirectly helped Benko obtain loans from other cantonal banks.

Fanconi is said to have acted as a "door opener". However, his spokesperson emphasized that Fanconi never received any benefits. Moreover, the investigation is not primarily about Fanconi, but about the general process of granting loans.

SVP: "Finance Director plays down the issue"

In a letter on Thursday, the SVP Graubünden demanded a "complete clarification" of the relationship between Fanconi and Benko. The investigation should also examine whether other potentially problematic business relationships have been entered into recently.

They also criticized the finance director of Graubünden. According to the People's Party, he played down the matter. It was crucial that Bühler examined the transactions critically and impartially and acted in the interests of the population. After all, the canton is liable for the liabilities of GKB due to the state guarantee.

Cantonal banks granted loans in the millions

In addition to Bank Julius Baer, several cantonal banks, including the Zurich and Aargau cantonal banks, also granted the troubled real estate mogul Benko millions in loans. It is still unclear whether the Graubünden state bank is also one of them.

However, according to media reports, GKB's name is said to have appeared on a list of creditors. The potential Signa loan from GKB was estimated at around CHF 60 million on this list.

Benko filed for insolvency

Until a few months ago, 46-year-old Benko was considered a multi-billionaire. Since the end of December, however, a whole series of companies from Benko's Signa Group have filed for insolvency. The Elbtower project in Hamburg, the luxury department store KaDeWe in Berlin and the department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof are all part of Benko's convoluted corporate empire.

In Switzerland, the group owns half of the luxury department store Globus, among other things. In the meantime, Benko has also personally filed for insolvency.

©Keystone/SDA

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