Return to the “Hungarian Watergate”

It was on September 12, 2008, that I first reported on a scandal that I dubbed the "Hungarian Watergate." But while in the United States Watergate ended in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the Hungarian Watergate's fate has been shaping up very differently in the last two and a half years. "The bad guys" have morphed into the good guys and the good guys into the bad.

To summarize the events, the National Security Office under the socialist-liberal government became suspicious that a company called UD Zrt. was engaged in illegally gathering government secrets. Among the evidence were tapes of several telephone conversations between the owners of the firm and Ervin Demeter, had who been minister in charge of the National Security Office in the first Orbán government. The men had a longstanding relationship, going back to the days when the owners of UD Zrt. were still part of the Hungarian national security team. In these telephone conversations Ervin Demeter asked the owners of the company to spy on the socialist-liberal government in order to gather certain information that the opposition wanted to have.

But Demeter wasn't the only one who had close ties with the owners of UD Zrt. There were several telephone conversations between them and László Kövér, one of the most important men in Fidesz who also held the post of minister in charge of the National Security Office. He was more circumspect on the telephone than Demeter, his successor, but it was clear from the conversations that were available for a while on the Internet that these politicians and the former national security guys were great pals. Other people were also involved. For example, Sándor Csányi, head of the biggest Hungarian bank, OTP, and a great friend of Viktor Orbán, who almost sounded on the phone as if he were "the boss" of the whole organization.

In any case, at first it looked like an open and shut case, but it turned out that with the help of the prosecutors it was UD Zrt. that came out victorious in this tug of war between people allegedly working for Fidesz and the government. Eventually the accused was not UD Zrt. or Ervin Demeter but the socialist minister György Szilvássy and the head of the National Security Office. UD Zrt. was found completely innocent according to the Hungarian prosecutor's office. This decision came after a mere six days of investigation. As time went by the prosecutors found another "guilty" man, Károly Tóth, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of national security. So, today these two men stand accused instead of Demeter, Kövér, or the owners of UD Zrt.

The charge against Szilvássy and Tóth is "misuse of personal information" (személyes adattal való visszaélés). How? The members of the parliamentary committee demanded the CD that contained the telephone conversations that were recorded legally. Szilvássy, as minister, was obliged to hand the CD over to the members of the committee. Once they received the information, the Fidesz members illegally put some of the material online.

Today four "witnesses" were called. All Fidesz politicians, including the almighty speaker of the house, László Kövér. Reading the Index report on the proceedings I could imagine how furious Kövér must have been when the judge asked him some rather embarrassing questions. The judge, Csaba Vasvári, didn't seem to be awed by the presence of the "very important man." The Fidesz witnesses talked all over creation, further deepening some people's suspicion that something is very fishy about this whole case.

The first question was when Kövér and Demeter first learned about the case. This is an important question because in September 2008 it looked as if Demeter and Kövér knew about the impending trouble before the affair became public. Kövér testified that he first heard about it on September 12, shortly before it became public, from György Bakondi, lawyer for UD Zrt. Demeter came up with a different story: he heard it from a journalist of Népszabadság. Too bad that he couldn't remember the journalist's name and that Szilvássy swore under oath that he had not given out any information to the media prior to the official announcement of the affair. The judge gave Demeter five days to refresh his memory.

Kövér also had a hard time with the judge who kept asking why it was so important for the lawyer of UD Zrt. to inform him about the search at the headquarters of UD Zrt. if his relationship with the owners of the firm was as casual and sporadic as he claimed. Kövér's answer was anything but satisfactory. He claimed that he knew at that very moment that the whole UD Zrt. affair would be shown in a light that would be very negative for Fidesz and Bakondi, the lawyer, wanted "to prepare him psychologically and verbally" for what was afoot. Apparently, Kövér's claim that he knew very little about the activities of UD Zrt. didn't impress the judge.

One of the specific charges originally brought against Demeter and UD Zrt. was that Demeter asked the owner of UD Zrt., József Horváth, a former secret service man, to find out more about the head of the National Security Office and his trips to Moscow. Apparently, information concerning such trips anywhere outside of Hungary is considered to be a state secret. However, the Fidesz witnesses, former ministers in charge of the office, couldn't decide what the real situation was. According to Kövér it wasn't a state secret while Demeter said that it depended on the trip. In reality, it is a state secret. It already was when Kövér was minister between 1998 and 2000.

The judge wanted to know from Demeter why he thought that Horváth knew anything about trips made by the head of the office. Demeter's answer was curious:  it is a well-known fact that there is a "pensioners' club" made up of former National Security Office people where information of that sort can be picked up. But there was a bit of trouble in connection with this pensioners' club. Horváth, when asked by the judge, simply denied the very existence of such a club. The men just chit-chatted among themselves while drinking a few glasses of beer. At this point the judge expressed his astonishment that people while having a few drinks would talk about the foreign trips of heads of the secret service. He asked Horváth again: how did they know about such things? Answer: "I don't know."

But that wasn't the end of the conflicting statements. When it came to the question of whether the CD had been marked "not for the public," Kövér claimed that it had already been opened up and therefore there was no marking on it. Demeter, on the other hand, claimed that it was clearly marked "not for the public." Simicskó, the chairman of the parliamentary committee that received the CD, many times with full conviction repeated that the CD had this marking, but his statement collapsed when he was read his earlier testimony (December 10, 2008) in which he categorically denied that there was anything on the CD.

When one reads the detailed description of the proceedings and the judge's questions, one can understand why Fidesz would like to get rid of about 300 judges and replace them with new "blood" that wouldn't ask such probing questions from the witnesses. I don't know how old Csaba Vasvári is, but if he is too young to be forcibly retired the current government will most likely find other ways to make his life miserable.

 

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Johnny Boy
Guest

Another case where Szilvásy will most likely get condemned yet you are “summarizing” the events as if he was one of the good guys instead of the bad, something what probably everyone in the universe, except you, think.
Another example of your total inability to come to sane conclusions and another example where everybody else will be at fault, ranging from the prosecutors to the jury and to of course Fidesz, again without even trying to gain any knowledge on the facts on which the charges are founded upon.
Very convenient, very cozy, and no danger of having to face the truth that the whole UD case was made up by Szilvásy to blackmail Fidesz.
And another excellent opportunity for Paul to immediately call me troll and analyze my posting behavior and language skills, as meanwhile he can escape the impossible task of trying to post some genuine contribution for the first time, ever.

Sandor
Guest

So, what else is new? Fidesz politicians lying. Business as usual, except that this time they are doing it under oath. A minor diversion.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

This could only happen in Hungary. What surprises me is that heads have not yet rolled in the Justice department for failing to brief the judge properly. Why is this trial not been properly prepared, and why did the judge not learn his lines or did someone goof and forget to write them – they really should look at the Rajk show trial to see how to do itproperly.
He is back! The have found the key to the cupboard where they keep the ‘bunko powders’.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“What sources do you use?”
I can tell this for you: Klub Rádió and ATV.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Sandor: no, it’s Szilvásy & Co. lying, Demeter/Kövér are telling the truth.

European citizen
Guest

I once read a good definition of what a troll is: A person with a narcissistic personality disorder who comments in internet forums not for the sake of adding to the debate by making sound arguments, but to find satisfaction by insulting others or by contradicting for the sake of contradicting. Draw your own conclusions.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Draw your own conclusions”
That you are a troll. You came to find satisfaction by insulting others.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “to face the truth that the whole UD case was made up by Szilvásy to blackmail Fidesz”
Did Szilvássy also manfacture the telephone conversations between Kövér and Demeter and József Horváth of UD Zrt.? Conversations about how they want to get information about the National Security Office?
You’re really brainwashed.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Sandor: no, it’s Szilvásy & Co. lying, Demeter/Kövér are telling the truth.”
I guess that’s why they can’t even get their stories straight.

GDF
Guest

Zsolt Sesztak:
“For more news from Hungary please visit my site at http://zsoltsesztak.com
I am an English Hungarian translator”
I am obviously not speaking for the owner of this blog, but I think self-promoting, commercial-like sites should not be referenced in contributions. I dislike them.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “That you are a troll. You came to find satisfaction by insulting others.”
You are something else. There is a Hungarian saying about exhibiting certain people in circuses. You should be a perfect specimen. Honestly, how can be anyone as brainwashed as you? Where did you find “the true faith”? Will you ever be able to see the world as is?

Johnny Boy
Guest

“There is a Hungarian saying about exhibiting certain people in circuses”
Another low standard course to evade any genuine answer.
Most probably I hit the nail right on the head. No answer at all, to any of my comments.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Honestly, how can be anyone as brainwashed as you? Where did you find “the true faith”? Will you ever be able to see the world as is”
1. You are brainwashed, not me;
2. I’m seeing the world as is, not you.
Proof for this is that I understand the processes concerning Hungary, and you don’t. At all.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny boy: “Most probably I hit the nail right on the head. No answer at all, to any of my comments.”
Oh, yes, you did. Your incredible bias has reached a low point. You can’t even believe your ears when the proof is in those conversations between Fidesz politicians and UD Zrt.’s owners.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “1. You are brainwashed, not me; 2. I’m seeing the world as is, not you. Proof for this is that I understand the processes concerning Hungary, and you don’t. At all.”
I guess that’s why according to the news of the day, Fidesz lost another 5% of its voters and OV lost eight points in two months. As for Schmitt, he holds the record: he has only 40 points. Take a look at past presidents and their records.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“proof is in those conversations between Fidesz politicians and UD Zrt.’s owners”
Oh, finally a statement with comment. But to no avail, I’m afraid. Tell me, proof for… what?
“Fidesz lost another 5% of its voters and OV lost eight points in two months”
If momentary popularity is the gauge of sanity, then you’re still among the brainwashed minority, and was even more so one year ago. So, in your own interest, I’d not continue using this as argument.
But I’m still wondering why you just ignored my lengthier post a while ago where I provided quite a few links to how the latest economic developments meet appraise among Western financials.
I think I’ve learnt to read between your lines. Since you haven’t posted an economic topic for a while, you are aware of the latest developments.

Johnny Boy
Guest

I understand you are always watching the latest polls with keen eyes. I’d just like to remind you that the next elections are due in 3 years only and Fidesz will probably conveniently win that too, not with a 2/3 majority though. You’ll be broadcasting victory reports “Fidesz won smaller than last time” but that won’t matter at all because the 2/3 won’t be needed any more. The necessary reforms will have been carried out by then, and a simple majority is adequate for a convenient governance for another at least 4 years.
So there’s a long time of reconstruction ahead, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

Kirsten
Guest

If I may ask, I read sometimes that Hungarian debates on politics are often quite heated and full of insults similar to what Johnny is providing us with. But what I would like to know is when did this start and why? Certainly not only during the first Orban government’s years as I read already?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “proof is in those conversations between Fidesz politicians and UD Zrt.’s owners” Oh, finally a statement with comment. But to no avail, I’m afraid. Tell me, proof for… what?”
For what? That high-level Fidesz politicians asked the people at UD Zrt. to spy on the government by illegal means.
As for your lengthier epistles I don’t have the patience to read all that rubbish you can come up with.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “I read sometimes that Hungarian debates on politics are often quite heated and full of insults similar to what Johnny is providing us with. But what I would like to know is when did this start and why? Certainly not only during the first Orban government’s years as I read already?”
Most people would date that from the time when Fidesz lost the elections in 2002 and it became even worse once Gyurcsány became involved in politics. Even before he became prime minister or before the infamous speech. Orbán is very much afraid of Gyurcsány and he has been trying to amortize him (this was their own word). As you can see from some of the comments on this blog, Orbán was quite successful.

John G
Guest

But what I would like to know is when did this start and why? Certainly not only during the first Orban government’s years as I read already?”
When I was talking to my father a few years ago about this he was by then in his late 80’s. I mentioned to him about the malice and viciousness of the political dialogue in Hungary. He replied that it has always been so. Especially during the inter war years often referred to in Hungary as “during Peace”” or a “Bekeben”. So it would seem nothing has changed, Orban merely returned to the old ways.

Paul
Guest

“And another excellent opportunity for Paul to immediately call me troll and analyze my posting behavior and language skills, as meanwhile he can escape the impossible task of trying to post some genuine contribution for the first time, ever.”
Christ, ‘Johnny’, I didn’t realise I was getting to you that much!
Sensitive little chap, our troll.

Ron
Guest

Off topic:
http://www.euractiv.com/en/food/food-products-lower-quality-eastern-eu-news-504026
And I am sure that this does not relate to the products mentioned in that article, but also for vegetables and fruits and lots of other products.

European citizen
Guest

Concerning JB, Eva, why do you even bother anymore? It is clear that he doesn’t have anything to contribute to the debate. If he had, he would provide some substantive argument instead of simply denying or contradicting what you say (see above). Or maintain his own blog with some interesting content. Such as the https://hungarianvoice.wordpress.com/ blog (in German), which is from the other political spectrum but at least backs up its claims with its own information and has been highly critical of your articles at times.
But that is not what JB is here for (see my last post by which he obviously felt addressed). As someone has already remarked, it is a shame that we waste our precious time responding to him instead of discussing your articles.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Another case where you consequently ifnore all proof:



Go, look at 1:45 and ignore it!
Look at 2:07 and continue ignoring the facts and lying that Heller was right!

Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva: your excuses are getting weaker and weaker, but here we go.
Since this blog long ignores economic topics, here are the latest news (all English):
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22041
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=3&i=22039
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22036
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22046
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22035
I’m eager to see the opinions of those who last year said Matolcsy was wreaking havoc.

Member

@Johnny Can you please summarize first why do you think Matolcsy is a genius? If you have time, I’m especially interested to hear what exactly Matolcsy did that resulted in these very promising results. Not all of us have the time to read through the pontifications of these Bulgarian experts in the articles you are quoting. By the way 3 of the articles require subscription. I hope you didn’t pay for them ..

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: Your evidence is all related regarding the last few months, which showed an increase in exports to mainly Germany.
No increase in domestic consumption, actually it is getting worse.
However, all are expecting a cool off period the next couple of months. But we are not worried about this year. 2012 and 2013 we expect to be the disaster years for Hungary.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“But we are not worried about this year. 2012 and 2013 we expect to be the disaster years for Hungary.”
Oh yes.
Last year you were expecting disaster for 2011. Very sadly, this didn’t happen, so now you expect disaster for 2012 and 2013.
And you failed to recognize that the most significant factor is that Hungary can finance itself off the markets, as the bond issuance clearly proves.
Everyone yammering about how Orbán and Matolcsy were idiots for kicking out the IMF are demonstratively proved totally wrong.

Ron
Guest

Off topic:
http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/presidency-midterm-orb-denounces-eu-absurdities-news-504101
Ironic note:
http://www.politics.hu/20110415/hungary-us-officials-discuss-ways-to-act-against-illicit-web-servers-abroad
Read last part:
Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics told MTI on Thursday that the US had a broader interpretation for the freedom of expression and speech. Regulations on permissible internet content that are increasingly introduced in Europe “do not seem to have arrived yet in the US,” he added.
That is surprising news.

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