Signa’s Benko Sentenced to Year in Prison Over Croatian Payments

Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Signa Holding GmbH managing director Rene Benko was found guilty in Vienna of making improper payments to Croatian officials and sentenced to one year in prison.

Ernst Schillhammer, a lawyer for the real estate investor, said his client would appeal the ruling issued by Vienna’s Economic and Corruption Court.

“The decision is legally and in point of fact false,” Schillhammer said today in a telephone interview.

Benko, who is developing a luxury-retail quarter in Vienna and had bid for Germany’s Metro AG’s Kaufhof department stores last year, was alleged to have facilitated an improper payment to the Croatian officials to help his business in Italy.

Worth around EU440 million euros ($567 million), Benko was named Austria’s 2011 Man of the Year by Trend magazine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at