Was the Galeria and KaDeWe investor politically favored? Many questions but few answers are expected in Parliament. Because there is a lot at stake legally for Benko.

René Benko’s relations with politics will be the focus of an investigative committee in the Austrian Parliament on Wednesday. The highly anticipated appearance offers the Austrian investor an opportunity to finally break his silence on the demise of his real estate and trading group Signa. But both his lawyer and MPs believe Benko will say little to protect himself from criminal consequences.

The U-Committee is investigating the alleged preference for politically well-connected billionaires by the conservative ÖVP chancellor party. Benko’s good relationships with ex-Chancellor and ex-ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz are just as well known as with former high-ranking top politicians from other parties.

The Greens, who govern with the ÖVP, want to know in the committee which politicians once supported Benko and how his Signa group could collapse. “Who allowed themselves to be blinded by him? “Who played in his shell game?” said Green MP Nina Tomaselli to the German Press Agency before the survey. The opposition liberal party Neos, on the other hand, is particularly interested in Benko’s relationships with tax authorities. “Who did Benko allegedly unlawfully influence, where did he intervene? We want to shed light on these allegations,” said Neos MP Yannick Shetty to the dpa. The Social Democrat Kai Jan Krainer wants to ask which politicians visited the former billionaire at his properties in Innsbruck, on the Arlberg and on Lake Garda.

From the point of view of his lawyer Norbert Wess, Benko has the right not to answer in the U-Committee in order not to incriminate himself criminally. Austria’s Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) is investigating Benko for allegedly faking solvency in connection with loans. The WKStA is also investigating whether the 47-year-old tried to bribe a high-ranking finance official and former confidant of then-Chancellor Kurz. Investigations into suspected money laundering are ongoing in Germany. Benko’s lawyers have denied these allegations. So far, Benko has canceled the U-Committee twice – because of parallel criminal investigations and because of an insolvency hearing. Benko’s lawyer Wess has announced his client’s appearance this time; Nevertheless, Parliament has requested the help of the Ministry of the Interior to ensure that the Signa founder actually comes on Wednesday. The police said it could be that Benko was accompanied by officials to his appointment in parliament.