Viktor Orbán, who is not terribly sure-footed when it comes to handling the economy, was only too well prepared to establish a regime in which all that happens depends on his will. One of his goals was to see Ferenc Gyurcsány in jail. The first attempt at finding him guilty of using the Hungarian police force for political purposes during the 2006 disturbances failed. I wrote about the rigged committee's efforts to find just one policeman who would admit that Gyurcsány in any way tried to give them instructions. The committee members found no one who would so testify.
Then came the second round. Orbán appointed Gyula Budai, a lawyer with not the best reputation, to investigate Gyurcsány's role in the so-called King's City affair. I wrote about the perils of being a foreign investor in Hungary on August 13, 2010. I suggest that for background my readers review that piece. Very briefly the situation was as follows. One of the investors, Joáv Blum, a Hungarian-Israeli citizen, had an orchard somewhere in Pest County which he offered in exchange for a piece of state-owned land in Sukoró, a village on the bank of a small lake near Székesfehérvár which would have been perfect for erecting an entertainment complex. The charge is that there was a huge difference between the value of the two pieces of land. According to the prosecutors 1.3 billion forints. The deal was forced through although even Ferenc Gyurcsány knew that the state was being fleeced by Blum.
Budai began to work on the case feverishly. Every second day he held a press conference where he triumphantly announced that the case is already won. He found evidence upon evidence that Ferenc Gyurcsány was guilty. He claimed that Joáv Blum conducted shady real estate deals not only in Hungary but also in Israel and demanded information concerning Blum from the Israeli Embassy in Budapest. He convinced the prosecutors to arrest Miklós Tátrai, the former CEO of Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő, the office that handles the sale of state properties, and Zsolt Császy, the head of its legal department. And when in Hungary someone, especially if that person had a job during the last eight years, is arrested it means that he will stay in jail for a while, perhaps years. No charges were brought against the two men, but the courts decided that there was the possibility that they might leave the country or try to influence witnesses. So, they spent good three months in jail.
Ferenc Gyurcsány does know that Orbán "wants his head" and even described an encounter with an old classmate of his wife who told him that he knows from a reliable source that since the prosecutors have absolutely nothing on him in connection with 2006 they will concentrate on the Sukoró land deal.
Well, it seems that this didn't work out either. On December 17 Miklós Tátrai, shackled and led in on a long chain, appeared at the Fejér County Court in Székesfehérvár as an accused in the case. He was under oath, unlike before when he testified as a witness. Gyula Budai was very hopeful. This will definitely clinch the case, he claimed in the morning. Then came the disappointment. Tátrai under oath testified that Ferenc Gyurcsány didn't force him to close the deal. The former prime minister simply told him about Blum's idea of the swap and asked him to look into the legal possibilities of an exchange. Tátrai also expanded on some of the details. Blum's orchard in Pest County was a good deal from the state's point of view because part of this particular orchard was necessary for the building of a new highway while the office had no plans for the land in Sukoró. Morover, Blum was willing to pay any difference in the value of the two pieces of land. Five independent estimates were received and four of them agreed that the difference was 300 million forints! And not 1.3 billion as the prosecutors today claim. A few hours later both men were released from jail.
By now, Orbán and his minions have struck out twice. I'm curious what will come next.