Huge tax debts – Kika/Leiner: Benko deal is far too small for the state


The bankruptcy of Kika/Leiner continues to cause a stir: while René Benko’s Signa Group has already paid 5 million euros into the insolvency pot, this is being disapproved by the Republic’s lawyer. “The comparison is too small,” Wolfgang Peschorn explains to the “Krone” – the dissatisfaction is probably not a coincidence, because Kika/Leiner owes most of its debt to the state.

As announced today on Tuesday, the Signa Group will spend a total of 20 million euros on insolvency compensation – divided into four installments until the end of 2024; The first 5 million euros have already been paid into the insolvency fund. The members of the creditors’ committee were informed of the move by email by the special administrator of the furniture chain, Stephan Riel – and a spokesperson for Signa also confirmed the payment.

Nearly 50 million are missing from the start
This decision is not at all in favor of the President of the Financial Prosecutor’s Office, Wolfgang Peschorn. After all, the Republic of Austria is not only the most important creditor, the former furniture giant is also heavily in debt to the state: the tax authorities alone are missing out on around 46.5 million euros.

There is also around €3.5 million from the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK), €3.9 million from the Covid-19 Finance Agency and €12.1 million from landlords and banks. There are also claims amounting to 93 million euros in total.

The majority of creditors overruled the state
The Republic of Austria did not agree to this settlement, but was outvoted by the majority of creditors. Peschorn explained in an interview with the “Krone” that the settlement amount is far from appropriate due to the events identified by the administrator in which the Signa Group was involved between 2018 and 2023 – after all, it concerns taxpayers’ money. When declaring bankruptcy, the Financial Public Prosecutor’s Office had already announced that it would critically examine these processes.

“The interests of taxpayers are being undermined”
“With the support of a renowned international auditor, the administrator has identified several valuable claims against various Signa companies and consultants for a total amount of more than 20 million euros,” Peschorn said. “The settlement that has now been decided is too small and the amounts do not reflect the responsibility of the business community.”

And further: “It would have been appropriate for the Signa Group to pay a higher amount to settle these claims. “With the approach of insolvency proceedings, the financial prosecutor’s efforts to induce Signa Group to make an appropriate payment in the interests of taxpayers were undermined.”

No understanding for installment payments
The fact that the Signa Group is allowed to pay off the settlement amount in installments is also met with incomprehension by the Financial Public Prosecutor’s Office. The creditors would thus grant Benkos Signa a kind of credit and also bear the risk that the installments are actually paid. The Financial Prosecutor’s Office has also spoken out against such a settlement, citing the recommendations of the European Central Bank.

Peschorn: “Otherwise you should really worry”
Peschorn does not believe that possible financial bottlenecks at the Signa Group should be a decisive factor for the installment payment: “Based on the public actions of the Signa Group, you can expect that it can immediately pay 20 million euros. Otherwise you really have to worry.”

With the payment now being made, the comparison is at least legally effective. Next Monday (September 25), the decisive meeting on the renovation plan for Kika/Leiner will take place at the St. Pölten Regional Court. The creditors still have to agree to the final composition proposal.

Source: Krone


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