Last-minute cancellation: Benko was not included in the U-committee

However, the audience and members of parliament did not expect his appearance. The SPÖ announced its application for detention on Thursday and intends to apply to the Federal Administrative Court for a speedy decision. At the same time, Benco is reloaded. Now there are dozens of charges against him, so it is impossible to get an overview, according to Benko's letter available to ORF.at.

The U-Committee has a duty to tell the truth – but you can opt out to avoid incriminating yourself in ongoing legal proceedings. As is well known, there have recently been proceedings against whistleblowers such as former President Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) for false statements before the U-Group.

It is currently “impossible” to assess how far Benko will be able to avoid testifying before the committee, the letter continues. The Parliamentary Directorate has now officially confirmed the absence. Several committee members previously announced the cancellation on X (Twitter) and elsewhere.

An emotional question from a high-ranking official

The focus of the COFAG-U group's third day on Wednesday was the Innsbruck tax office and the question of whether the rich are being prioritized – especially Benko. A senior official from the local tax office retaliated before the panel and spoke about the scandalous pre-conviction. He feels “like Kafka on trial.” The SPÖ, FPÖ, Greens and NEOS opposed this in a highly emotional poll and questioned his portrayal as a marginal figure in the “Benko case”.

In this context, the opposition talks about a “feel-good plan” for the super-rich in Innsbruck, which the ÖVP has been campaigning for through the top echelons of the Finance Ministry – and has been doing so for decades. The second respondent's questioning was so sensitive that it was briefly interrupted several times by discussions of procedural rules. The ÖVP defended the respondent and the work of the tax authority in general. The leader, Third National Council President Norbert Hofer (FPÖ), had to appeal several times for a more objective and less emotional survey from all sides.

The Innsbruck tax office employee spoke about the considerable prejudices and completely unfounded accusations by members of parliament and the media. A scandal is created out of “nothing”. Accusing the MPs in the group of being financially incompetent, he suggested setting up a sub-committee with qualified people to ensure that such unworthy reports are not sent to the media. He “felt like Kafka on trial,” the official said, referring to the famous novel.

Inquiries made known in the media last week regarding the subject matter of the COFAG-U committee's investigation, the respondent implicitly confirmed that he was involved in abuse of office. However, he was adamant about one approach: the reporter had been known to the authorities for many years and filed complaints, thereby disrupting the work of the tax authorities.

Norbert Hofer (FPÖ) as part of the COFAG investigation team.

ORF/Lukas Krummholz

Chairman Norbert Hofer tried to defuse the heated atmosphere

Part of a “brutal hunting party”.

Together with a tax consultant, he is part of a “brutal hunting party” who does not want to pay taxes and is currently using “Casa Benco” as a kind of free rider to launch new investigations. A legal proceeding initiated by this man ended in his acquittal three years ago. The person sometimes goes to the media and threatens.

“Not related or reported”

In his opening statement, the official also addressed the content of the “René Benko case”, “because it may not be wanted”: on the one hand, he insisted on moving the headquarters of the Cigna company from Vienna. Innsbruck was not initiated by the Innsbruck tax office, but was assigned to them by the Vienna tax office. In addition, the transfer was automatically triggered by the change of the company's registered office in the commercial register.

In addition, the audit was carried out from start to finish by the Vienna Big Business Audit Office. He was “neither involved nor informed” and issued a Finance Ministry order on the separation of duties between the tax office and the tax audit to prove his position.

Yannick Shetty (NEOS)

ORF/Lukas Krummholz

A particularly heated exchange took place with NEOS moderator Yannick Shetty

Lots of “notifications not clicked”

As far as big companies are concerned, the tax office is just a “clearance office” that only “computes” and “clicks” the notices produced by the big company audit. He did this with Cigna, as did the 3,000 cases that crossed his desk “like hotcakes” over the past 20 years. Background: A few days after Cigna was transferred from Vienna to Innsbruck, the defendant issued a notice.

U-Committee: Focus on tax authorities

On Wednesday, the COFAG-U group addressed several tax authorities and investor Rene Benko and their views on the tax issues of his bankrupt Cigna. It started with a big business auditor who, according to his own reports, has been working at the Innsbruck tax office since 1992.

Kai Jan Krainer (SPÖ) presented a chat about the “Benko case” from Thomas Schmidt, the former Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance, in which he reported that “everything is on track” with Benko. The tax official said that he did not know anything then. Greiner replied: Yes, maybe so, but a week later he “clicked” on the notification, which means “everything is on track”. Noting the panel's alleged incompetence, Griner also asserted that it contained some information that the person providing the information did not have.

Distribution of Personal Information

Griner asked if the officer knew Bengo personally. He met him once about 15 years ago because he wanted to hire his chef from Lake Garda in Tyrol. He then personally brought the written information to his office in the Tyrol supermarket. When NEOS MP Yannick Shetty was asked if he often dropped things off for taxpayers, he said he had probably done it a total of ten times in his 20-year career – for example, on the way or in a hurry. He made a turn at Benko's because it was urgent and Benko wanted to use his cook.

“No one interferes with me”

On a parliamentary NEOS question to the finance ministry about the basis of the “Causa Tuchlauben” assessment, the official said it was moving in the direction of criminalization. He correctly suggested a level of large-scale censorship, which was only responsible for content, and he did nothing. At that time, the assessment base was not reduced from 50 to 36 million euros, but rather increased from zero to 36. In addition, the Tyrolean tax official, who brought in lawyer Martin Humer appointed by the Ministry of Finance as a confidant, insisted that “no one interfered with me”.

Green: “Put Statements to the Test”

Green MP Nina Tomaselli also insisted she wanted to “put previous statements to the test” and was committed to “Causa Tuchlaben”. According to Tomaselli, he cited the officer he used to defend himself. He complained that Cigna always had a huge increase in profits, but they didn't pay income tax. And in “Casa Tuchlaben”, the real estate was sold to Luxembourg and bought back from Luxembourg two weeks later – and a profit of 54 million euros was made. Here the tax officer insisted that he had seen this file and not at that time.

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