René Benko Court Appearance: Details, Claims, and Financial Status Revealed

2024-04-24 15:26:00

Everyone is equal before the judiciary. And so must it René Benko on Wednesday morning in his home community of Innsbruck, first through a security gate before he is allowed to enter the regional court. The former star entrepreneur takes back his previously issued cell phone from the security guards. And is immediately harassed by a large number of media representatives with cameras and questions.

It is the Tyrolean’s first public appearance since his Signa empire collapsed. For this court hearing, Benko gave the COFAG-U committee the third rebuff following being summoned to parliament. However, none of the journalists on site had expected the investor to appear at the first hearing in the insolvency proceedings surrounding his private assets.

A gauntlet

Benko comes in a suit and a pink tie and doesn’t seem to be physically at his best. In the few minutes between arrival and the start of the hearing, he runs the gauntlet trying to avoid cameras – in vain. His lawyer Georg Eckert becomes a bodyguard in the turmoil and pushes media representatives aside. Benko doesn’t answer any questions.

Lots of explosives

What went on behind closed doors is highly explosive. According to the creditor protection associations Creditreform, AKV and KSV1870, 30 creditors have registered claims totaling 2.016 billion euros, but Benko has listed further liabilities in the asset list.

The majority of the claims amounting to 1.969 billion euros were disputed because the liquidator Andreas Grabenweger was not yet able to conclusively examine these claims to determine their legitimacy. “The insolvency administrator has disputed the claims of those creditors of the Signa companies who assert René Benko’s personal liabilities,” explains KSV1870 expert Klaus Schaller.

High standard of living

But how did the consulting entrepreneur René Benko go bankrupt? “The reason for the decline in assets was, on the one hand, the lack of orders as a result of the Signa Group’s insolvencies and, on the other hand, the well-known high costs of René Benko’s standard of living,” says Tristan Prem from Creditreform. According to the trustee, the “lifestyle was very conspicuous and extremely lavish.”

These include the high maintenance payments for three family members as well as payments in the millions, for example for a horse as a birthday present; Additionally, additional maintenance in the form of “equity for real estate investment” and high cash withdrawals are mentioned.

77.95 million euros in revenue

The liquidator asked Benko to provide receipts for income and expenses for the past two years, which he did.

But Grabenweger has not yet been able to see them. He has also requested from Benko a complete list of all vehicles used, owned or sold privately by Benko in recent years.

It is also a fact that the Signa founder taxed a total of 77.95 million euros in income between 2015 and 2021. In 2021, however, a bonus entitlement of 14.24 million euros was allegedly not paid to him by Signa Holding.

Picasso and Basquiat

But it is also a fact that various Signa companies have granted the sole proprietor Benko loans totaling 49 million euros, of which the now insolvent Benko Family Private Foundation alone received 22 million euros. “The review of the use of funds is currently being carried out by the insolvency administrator,” the court was informed. However, it might also be that Benko also assumed debt in the amount of the loan.

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As for the art objects, Benko stated that a painting by Picasso and one by Basquiat “never belonged to him, but are the property of the Laura Private Foundation.” In 2018 he is said to have sold various art objects to the foundation for 1.65 million euros. The Laura Private Foundation is attributed to his family.

The closure of the company

However, the liquidator can challenge past transactions that were detrimental to the creditors; As a rule, two years ago, legal actions can be challenged up to ten years ago, according to the AKV.

The consulting company René Benko is now history. “There is currently no prospect that consulting contracts can be acquired in the future,” said the liquidator. The company is closed with Benko’s approval. After an hour of closed proceedings in the austere room 112, Benko scurried out of the regional court the way he came: without a word.

Rene Benko is currently employed at Laura Asset 2018 Eins GmbH in portfolio management and receives a gross income of 6,192 euros per month. He most recently earned 60,480 euros gross at Signa Holding.

In addition, he was also entitled to 2.5 percent of the result from ordinary business activities (EGT) of Signa Holding. In the years 2015 to 2021 he paid tax on income of 77.95 euros. Tax notices for 2022 should not yet be available to the insolvency administrator.

Benko pays a total of 17,699 euros a month in maintenance for three people. In years of high income, he is said to have paid additional amounts “considerable (millions)”. He is also said to have given valuable gifts, to whom it is still unclear.

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