The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

MPs want to apply for a fine after Benko’s refusal

His appearance had been eagerly awaited. However, Austrian real estate mogul René Benko did not appear as planned on Thursday for questioning by a parliamentary committee of inquiry at the Austrian parliament. MPs see his last-minute refusal as a disregard for parliament. Now they want to change his mind by threatening him with a fine.

Following the cancellation of his appearance before a committee of inquiry of the Austrian National Council, parliament intends to apply for a penalty for the ex-billionaire René Benko. This was announced on Thursday by Jan Krainer, member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). The penalty is a punishment to force a person to behave in a certain way.

The conservative ÖVP will also expressly support all sanction measures, said MP Andreas Hanger. The last-minute rejection was a disregard for parliament. The Federal Administrative Court must decide on an application. Then a new appointment with Benko would probably still be possible in April or mid-May, said Krainer.

Cancellation at short notice

The founder of the now insolvent Signa Group canceled his appearance on Wednesday evening, citing the many charges against him and Signa companies. Benko's lawyer argued that the entrepreneur could not answer questions in parliament because he would be in conflict between his duty to tell the truth and his right to refuse to testify, according to the letter, which is available to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Benko's appearance before the so-called COFAG committee of inquiry had been eagerly awaited, as the manager, who was once celebrated as a success story, has never before publicly commented on the decline of the Signa Group he founded. Since a wave of insolvencies began to roll through his convoluted network of companies last year, he has avoided all public events.

Before the start of the committee's questioning of two further respondents, the Greens referred to what they saw as Signa's highly dubious strategy. "Signa was and is a single high-risk bet on low interest rates, aggressive expansion and massive appreciation," said Green MP Nina Tomaselli. Low interest rates and good contacts in politics are not a corporate concept.

The investigative committee was set up by the opposition to shed light on the alleged favoritism of super-rich people like Benko, who have ties to the conservative ÖVP chancellor's party.

©Keystone/SDA

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