Austria’s Meinl Gets $116 Million Bail Refund After Four YearsBoris Groendahl
Julius Meinl V, the scion of a coffee-roasting Vienna family and chairman of Meinl Bank AG, will get 90 percent of a 100 million-euro ($129 million) bail returned four years after his arrest on fraud allegations.
An appeals court in Vienna ruled that the bail was excessive and that 10 million euros was sufficient to ensure Meinl doesn’t flee, said court spokesman Reinhard Hinger.
“The European Court of Human Rights has in a different case ruled that a 3 million-euro bail was ‘very high’ and pushing the limits,” Hinger said in a phone interview. “An amount that exceeds this by such a factor is too high at any rate.”
Meinl, whose bank focuses on wealth management and investment banking, was arrested in April 2009 over allegations of fraud and misuse of funds related to share purchases in Meinl Bank affiliate Meinl European Land. Meinl, who rejects the allegations, was released after two days when he posted bail.
Prosecutors are still investigating Meinl, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, spokeswoman Nina Bussek said. In Austria, suspects who haven’t been indicted can be forced to post bail if a court finds a strong suspicion of guilt and there is a possibility of flight risk.
Meinl Bank Chief Executive Officer Peter Weinzierl said in an e-mailed statement that the court was correct in ruling that the “bail was absurdly high.”
Meinl’s original bail exceeded the $100 million bond put up in 2009 by Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge-fund tycoon and Galleon Group LLC co-founder, who was found guilty in one of the largest U.S. illegal stock-tipping cases. It dwarfs the $10 million provided by Bernard Madoff in 2008 and the $6 million surety by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2010.
The Meinl family name is one of the most recognized in Austria, marketing coffee, tea and jelly. Julius Meinl I ran the Austro-Hungarian monarchy’s biggest chain of grocery stores, with more than 1,200 shops and 63 factories in 1901.