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“The accusation is not true”: comments of Banco’s bankruptcy director

“The accusation is not true”: comments of Banco’s bankruptcy director

Shortly before filing for bankruptcy, we are with the real estate developer Cigna development 300 million euros allegedly flowed to two companies in Innsbruck that were linked to Banco, the Financial Times reported. Insolvency Administrator Andrea Frostorfer I strongly reject this, according to what was reported by “Der Standard” (Thursday). The accusation that the money went to Signa's founders Rene Benco The postponement is “not valid.” However, there are claims against “companies close to the Cigna Group.” “According to current figures, the rumored €300 million has been used for Cigna’s real estate projects,” the newspaper quoted the Viennese lawyer and insolvency director at Cigna Development as saying.

➤ Read more: Did Cigna transfer more than 300 million euros to Banco before its bankruptcy?

Two of Laura's companies pose a puzzle

Specifically, according to the Financial Times, that's what it's all about Laura Financial Holding GmbH And LAURA HOLDINGS LIMITED. The first borrowed 125 million euros from the project shortly before it went bankrupt, while the second borrowed 190 million euros. The documents from which these financial transfers could be read did not appear until December 29, the day the development company went bankrupt – after the relevant documents had been submitted to creditors. There was no explanation as to how the questionable loans appeared. The question therefore arose as to whether Banco had transferred the funds immediately before the bankruptcy.

➤ Read more: Cigna bankruptcy: Creditors now demand about 9 billion euros

The companies experienced “extensive changes in ownership”

According to the registration in the commercial registry, the two Laura companies to which millions went were not Banco companies at all, although they had only recently ceased doing so. In December – just days before the development went bankrupt – there were “extensive changes of ownership”, Der Standard wrote. Since then, the majority is no longer owned by companies and institutions in Benko's environment, but by its most important key investors.
According to the Standard, the insolvency administrator's denial leaves unanswered questions. What are the “Cigna Real Estate Projects” that millions went to? And why? Above all: Do the two “Laura” companies referred to by the Financial Times play any role in the case or none at all?

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Banco ceded significant shares to two of its long-serving investors

The company Laura Holding GmbH is of particular interest. The other company, Laura Finance Holding GmbH, is said to be a subsidiary of Laura Holding. According to the commercial registry, Benko's private foundation Laura owns only a 42 percent minority stake in Laura Holding GmbH. The rest belongs to Benko's most important business partner: the German founder of Fressnapf Torsten Toler (10 percent); Former Swiss CEO of Lindt & Sprüngli Ernest Tanner (3 percent), a Swiss entrepreneur in the coffee machine field Arthur Ogster (10 percent) and Liechtenstein-based Ameria Invest, which the Brazilian company is said to be behind. The Ardoini family are businessmen stands (35 percent). However, according to the Standard, this ownership structure only occurred shortly before the development went bankrupt, specifically in mid-December 2023. According to the company's registry, for example, Ernest Tanner received only 10 percent on December 15 – Previously this stake was owned by the private Benko family foundation. The same applies to the Brazilian Ardoini family. They also only became part owners of Laura Holding at the beginning of December. The previous owner of its 35 percent stake was also a company owned by the private Benko family foundation.

Bottom line: Just a few weeks ago, Laura was actually a Benko company, at least for the most part. However, just before the development company went bankrupt, Benko, according to the Standard, handed over significant portions to two of its long-serving investors. Finally, according to the Financial Times, €300 million has flowed into Laura under new ownership.
If there were already illegal outflows of assets before the bankruptcy, other creditors would be harmed. When asked by the Standard, Frostorfer did not want to comment on the matter, saying, “Nothing can be said at the moment.” There was also no response from the insolvent company, Signa Development.

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➤ Read more: The bankruptcy application was filed against Banco in Innsbruck