“The Night of the Long Bytes” Revisited

On February 20, 2008, I wrote about Zoltán Gubuznai who was Lajos Simicska’s right hand man as the computer wizard at the Hungarian Internal Revenue Service (APEH). When Simicska was named to head the office, the opposition cried foul. After all, Simicska was a close friend of Viktor Orbán, and he was heavily involved in rather shady financial affairs concerning companies owned by Fidesz. These companies were not successful and left behind substantial debt, including some unpaid taxes. The debts couldn’t be collected because, through the good offices of a less than honest lawyer, Fidesz managed to "sell" these companies to foreign nationals whose names came into Simicska’s and his friends’ hands through lost or stolen passports. So it was no wonder that the suspicion arose that Simicska’s appointment was somehow connected to getting rid of incriminating material at APEH. A decision from the top brass to give employees a long weekend further fueled suspicions. The name "Night of the Long Bytes" was born under these circumstances.

After the change of government, the new administration decided to carry out an investigation at APEH, looking for destroyed documents. Nothing surfaced, but the investigators came to the conclusion that somebody did manage to get to individual records without authorization. As it turned out, that man was Zoltán Gubuznai who years later tried to blackmail Sándor Csányi, the richest man in Hungary and president of OTP, Hungary’s largest bank. Csányi received several e-mails during November and December of last year in which Gubuznai demanded 50 million euros. Not a small sum. Csányi turned to the police, Gubuznai was arrested, and he is still in jail because the authorities feared he would flee. And now comes the really juicy part. It turns out that one of the owners of the Finder Detective Agency was none other than Zoltán Gubuznai. Thus there is a real possibility that the documents Magyar Nemzet published yesterday and today (and promises more for tomorrow) actually were given to the newspaper by someone who works at the prosecutor’s office.

To review briefly the revelations of Magyar Nemzet. In the first installment we heard about an unnamed firm and an unnamed client. Unnamed client hired unnamed firm to spy on Lajos Simicska, Viktor Orbán, and István Kalmár. In the second installment we learned that the firm was Finder Detective Agency, and the man who ordered the detectives to go to work on the project was László Kapolyi, MSZP parliamentary member, head of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, and a rich man whose business interests include energy and electricity. Kapolyi didn’t deny that he hired Finder, but according to him it had nothing to do with politics. He was suspicious of certain foreign businessmen and wanted to know more about them. In the end he didn’t pay the bill presented (for 55 million Fts) because Finder didn’t fulfill its obligations.

Then today came the third installment. The plot thickens. Actually, says Magyar Nemzet, Kapolyi was only the middle man. The real man behind the hiring of Finder was László Keller, the prime minister’s undersecretary in charge of investigating some of the shady business transactions of the Fidesz government. This time the paper produced details of a note taken in which Finder outlines the possibilities of a probe into the affairs of Fidesz. And let me quote: "(1) We know the route of money laundering with the help of [László] Horváth [a Hungarian businessman and honorary consul in Kazakhstan], through Arabic, Kazakh off-shore companies and lawyers’ offices…. (2) We have all the authentic details of Dr. Lajos Simicska’s activities during the so-called Night of the Long Bytes. (3) For the unveiling of Simicska’s incriminating activities in the Magyar Követeléskezelő we need extra money. [The mentioned firm was part of the Hungarian Investment Bank, a favorite bank of the Fidesz government. For example, it was this bank that moved some of the government expenses off balance sheet so these expenses didn’t show up as a budget deficit. Otherwise, this firm seems to be basically a collection agency.] (4) The material concerning activities of István Kalmár is hidden in a well secured place. It will need time and money to unearth everything. (5) We are working on Dr. Viktor Orbán’s affairs, details of which we will be able to provide in a week or two. (6) [Something about TETRA, a computer language.] (7) We will be receiving some documentation concerning Tamás Deutsch’s past misdeeds and his connection with SZDSZ." This laundry list, real or imaginary, was obviously intended to make Finder rich. There is a recurring litany about "more money needed."

Keller is abroad at the moment, but he doesn’t deny that he met with a representative of Finder who could be Gubuznai. Keller’s contention is that he couldn’t ignore somebody who was offering information to the government about the possible misdeeds of its predecessor. After all, that was his assignment. However, after the initial conversation either he or somebody in his office decided that it was better not to get involved with these guys. Meanwhile, it turns out that Gubuznai protected himself by recording his conversation with Keller. The recording was made illegally, and Keller claims that it is heavily edited. This is where we are at the moment.

One thing that really upsets me in this imbroglio is the possibility that information of this sort is being leaked from the prosecutor’s office to Magyar Nemzet, a paper specializing in mud slinging and discrediting the MSZP-SZDSZ government. If this is true, it is no wonder that the whole judicial system is suspect. Prime Minister Gyurcsány didn’t mince words when yesterday he expressed his misgivings about the Hungarian judicial system as it currently functions.

By the way, two relevant bits of news. Yesterday about a couple of dozen right radicals entered the Budapest council meeting. They came with whistles and eggs, but these items were taken away from them before they were let in. Deprived of whistles and eggs, they used only their throats. Upshot: the meeting was cancelled. Reason: the police have no right to remove these "demonstrators." And second: the Budapest court decided that Népszava is guilty of claiming on basis of documents they received that Katalin Kondor, former head of Magyar Rádió, was an agent working for the Hungarian Interior Ministry during the Kádár regime. The judges found the expert witnesses (historians) reliable, but they were still not convinced that the documents proved that Kondor was actually working for the security police. Népszava is supposed to pay 3.5 million forints. But the judges were actually nice: Kondor demanded 10 million.