Hygiene Austria boss resolutely defends himself against allegations

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The masks are of the highest quality, says Tino Wieser. He defends the certification in Hungary and sees no political component.

Hygiene Austria boss resolutely defends himself against allegations

After the fiber manufacturer Lenzing, as the majority owner of the mask manufacturer Hygiene Austria, surprisingly withdrew its two managing directors on Monday, the remaining managing director Tino Wieser from the minority shareholder Palmers has to take care of damage limitation in the mask scandal.

“Sat there alone”

He actually wanted to take over the company entirely, but Lenzing broke off contact, Wieser told APA on Monday evening.

In the afternoon, Lenzing announced by mail that the nomination of Stephan Sielaff as managing director of Hygiene Austria would be withdrawn and Stephan Trubrich would be dismissed as managing director with immediate effect. The reason given was that they had not been given full access to important documents.

“Last week we worked together with Lenzing to clear up the whole thing, including the whole weekend except yesterday at eight o'clock, when I was suddenly sitting there alone,” Wieser told APA.

“Today the statement came at noon, while all employees were invited to a team lunch, that all Lenzing employees would be withdrawn.”

“Everything confiscated”

Until then, Lenzing had been there with 15 to 20 people. “In terms of the division of tasks, it was clear from the start that Lenzing would be responsible for production and material procurement plus quality assurance and certificates,” said Wieser.

Palmers' tasks were sales, marketing, logistics and accounting. “I just don't think it's okay if a partner steals away a bit during this time, to put it bluntly.”

Wieser does not accept Lenzing's reasoning that they did not have access to important documents. “Do you know what happens when a house is searched? They confiscate everything. We sat here until Saturday evening, worked everything out together. Data was exchanged yesterday, the last data was exchanged this morning.”

But it is just not possible to inspect documents that are with the public prosecutor.

Interested in taking over

He still intends to take over Hygiene Austria entirely. “I made a takeover offer, we were already drafting the contract, the notary was appointed for 2 p.m. today,” said Wieser. Instead, however, there was the surprising press release by Lenzing.

He is still interested in the takeover, but “you have to talk to me. If the majority shareholder no longer talks to you, it'll be a bit difficult. I called everyone, nobody answers.”

At the weekend, mask production was interrupted, but has since been resumed, Wieser reported. You are now producing in stock for the time being. “Last week wasn't the best in terms of sales, you have to be very clear.”

The scandal surrounding the FFP2 protective masks “Made in Austria” occurred when it became known that some of the masks were not produced at the Wiener Neudorf site, but were bought in from a Chinese contract manufacturer.

Do not worry

“I understand people's uncertainty,” said Wieser, but “our masks are all of the highest quality. We also had the masks made by the contract manufacturer checked again over the weekend.” Nobody has to worry, “the masks are better than anything else that you can buy on the market.”

Hygiene Austria made 98 percent of its sales in Austria. “We are an Austrian company and everything I deliver is fine.” So far, more than 100 million masks have been produced, only a small part of which has been bought from a contract manufacturer due to the high demand. “I am of the opinion that I have not done anything wrong,” said Wieser.

“I was of the opinion that a certain amount of the product is enough to write 'Made in Austria' on it.” It is about the same model and the same material, “they are twice as expensive as if you make them yourself”.

“This is not the pampas”

It was also criticized that the certification of the FFP2 protective masks was not carried out in Austria. The review last weekend was also carried out in Hungary, said Wieser.

“This is Europe, this is not the pampas. At that time we called all over Europe in the course of certification: 'Who can issue us a certificate quickly?' Austria only has a certification body, I think since December last year. ” With other certification bodies there would have been waiting times of six to eight months.

Wieser also rejected the accusation that Hygiene Austria had employed undeclared temporary workers. They used three personnel supply companies and had statements from the social security and tax authorities presented to them every month to check whether all employees are correctly registered.

“In the course of last week's investigation, we had all the registrations from all employees. I'll put my hand on the fire for that.” They currently have 220 employees and plan to increase to 300 in the middle of the month.

“Never spoke to Kurz on the phone”

The scandal takes on a political dimension through Wieser's relationship to the office manager of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), who is married to his brother, Palmers board member Luca Wieser. Hygiene Austria could have benefited from this close relationship, so the suspicion. Wieser also rejects this accusation.

“We have sold a total of just one percent of everything that we have produced over the entire period to public authorities, governments and the BBG (Federal Procurement Company, note),” said the Hygiene Austria managing director. “I never called Kurz on the phone. I went to his election rally – what do I know when that was, 2015? – to congratulate him, that was it.”

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