Serious allegations against investor René Benko: According to a report, the Austrian is said to have driven the department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof into bankruptcy with his machinations. Secret documents are supposed to prove his questionable actions.

At the end of October, Germany’s last large department store group had sought rescue in protective shield proceedings for the second time in less than three years. According to initial announcements, the company intends to close more than 40 of its remaining 131 department stores as part of the restructuring efforts.

Now, a few days later, the “Bild” newspaper raises serious allegations against investor René Benko. The 45-year-old is said to have literally excluded the department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof with questionable business practices and driven it into bankruptcy. The “image” relies on secret documents.

“The lousy game” is said to have ended as follows. After joining the traditional group, Benko is said to have separated the trading business from the valuable real estate. This was done by selling a number of department store branches to other investors and then letting the department store chain rent back their retail space at inflated prices.

The newspaper therefore has the data from a total of 22 locations. The branches are said to have paid up to 8.6 million euros to the new property owners in the current year. The total for the 22 branches should amount to 58 million euros. According to the report, according to experts, this was far too much.

The explosive thing about it: Over the past few years, the federal government has paid around 700 million to Galeria Kaufhof to cover the increased costs.

CDU social expert Dennis Radtke speaks in this context of “robber baronry”. “The employees and taxpayers should be held responsible for making the actual business of Galeria Kaufhof Karstadt unprofitable through overpriced rents that flow into his own pocket,” Radtke raged to the “Bild”.

Even further rent increases are to follow. Accordingly, the 22 locations are currently being offered for sale by the brokers Waterways and Lapithus.

However, Benko does not seem to be aware of any guilt. In his opinion, the pandemic, lockdowns and the Ukraine war are the causes of the bankruptcy. “The statement that high rental costs have helped to drive Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof into bankruptcy is therefore incorrect,” said a spokesman on “Bild” request.