Viktor Orbán undoubtedly thought that his time for revenge had arrived. Once he became prime minister he could do practically anything he wanted, and very high on his list was sending Ferenc Gyurcsány, his predecessor and nemesis, to jail. I spent quite a bit a time over the last year or so on the various attempts to find a good opening for an assault on Gyurcsány, but interestingly the administration wasn't successful. There were two possible points of attack: the events of September-October of 2006 and the King's City project which, had it been completed, would have been a boon to the Hungarian economy.
A parliamentary subcommittee with a Fidesz-KDNP majority and with the assistance of Jobbik and LMP tried to find damning evidence that Gyurcsány gave explicit instructions to the police concerning the treatment of the not so peaceful demonstrators in the fall of 2006. That attempt failed.
At about the same time Gyula Budai, who was named commissioner in charge of corruption cases of the former government, began to "investigate" the King's City project. Budai is a primitve and most likely not very bright fellow who likes to boast about his great skills as a detective. Several times he came out with the alleged smoking gun: he found absolute proof that Gyurcsány explicitly instructed the office in charge of the sale of state properties to make a deal that was advantageous to the prospective buyer and disadvantageous to the state. Two of the leaders of the office were promptly arrested and kept in jail for months without being formally charged. Finally, when the case got to the court, the judge released them: there wasn't enough evidence to keep them in jail. Moreover, since then both men have emphatically stated that the prosecutors were interested in only one thing: was Gyurcsány in any way involved? Both men were certain that a show trial was in the making.
So, Budai's efforts were also in vain, but there was still one possible avenue for launching court proceedings against the former prime minister. Way back in October 2009 András Schiffer in the name of the newly formed LMP sued Gyurcsány because, according to him, the King's City project's "special status" was not immediately made public. The charge was "abuse of authority." Schiffer's case got nowhere–until now. The prosecutors claim that they have been furiously investigating in the last year and a half, but charges were just brought against Gyurcsány, two weeks before the statute of limitations would have expired. The prosecutors must have been in a great hurry because, as we will see later, the indictment was rather sloppily put together. But, then again, that is nothing new in Hungary.
It was on April 28 that the prosecutor's office informed the speaker of the house, László Kövér, of their intention to question Ferenc Gyurcsány not as a witness but as the accused. Gyurcsány is a member of parliament and as such he enjoys immunity from prosecution unless the parliament's committee on immunity releases him. On Monday, May 2, János Lázár felt that he as the head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation had to say something. His statement was an interesting combination of feigned concern for legality and an outright lie. He expressed his hope that the committee will deliberate the question very carefully, adding that Gyurcsány should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was the feigned concern part of his announcement. And then came the lie. According to Lázár this is a very serious case which involves a "one billion forint crime." I don't know where Lázár gets his one billion figure from, because it is a well known fact that not a cent was lost. After all, the real estate swap didn't take place. Second, talking about "the most serious crime since the change of regime" doesn't indicate to me respect for the principle of presumed innocence.
A day later, on May 3, György Rubovszky (KDNP), the chairman of the committee on immunity questions, announced that he "has some doubts" about the indictment. If members of the committee agree, he will ask the prosecutor's office for additional material. In plain language, the prosecutor's office turned in a lousy indictment on the basis of which at the moment even the Christian Democrat Rubovszky doesn't feel comfortable acting one way or the other. He also added that the committee will not act hastily and it might take a whole month before there is a decision.
Ferenc Gyurcsány is an impatient man and has no intention of waiting for the committee's decision a month from now. He decided to counterattack. I mentioned two days ago that the government's granting "special status" for very important investments is a fairly common practice in Hungary. I brought up as an example that the same deal was granted by the Orbán government to Audi. Ferenc Gyurcsány naturally has been following the details of the negotiations between the current government and Audi and decided to ask Orbán some questions about the special status granted to Audi. According to the house rules, a letter to the prime minister by a member of parliament must be answered in writing.
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First, he calls Orbán's attention to an interview with Miklós Tátrai, former CEO of the office handling state properties in which Tátrai said the following: "While in the case of Sukoró [King's City] the prime minister verbally asked for handling the swap within the limits of possibilities, this summer the current government gave written instructions to the office to sell the pieces of land picked by Audi to the German firm. And this written instruction also included the price." On the basis of this information Gyurcsány is asking the following questions from Viktor Orbán:
(1) Did you or any member of your govenment meet the representatives of the owner of the Audi Hungária Motor Kft.? Please give the exact time and place of the meetings, the names of the participants, and the topic of the negotiations.
(2) Were notes, memoranda, minutes, or recordings taken at these meetings? Please send me the copies of such.
(3) Did your government decide on the sale of land belonging to the Hungarian state in order to make the Audi Hungária Motor Kft.'s investment in Győr possible?
(4) What was the form of the decision–decree, resolution, or something else?
(5) Were notes, memoranda, or recordings taken at the cabinet meeting at which the members of the government or undersecretaries made the decision that certain lands could be purchased by Audi Hungária Motor Kft.? In case there are such records, please send me copies of these memoranda, notes, or recordings.
(6) Did the government or any of its members instruct the Office of State Properties to sell land belonging to the state to Audi Hungária Motor Kft.? In case the answer is yes, in what way did this instruction take place? Decree, resolution, something else? Please send me a copy of such instructions by the government or members of the government.
(7) Did the government prepare an impact study of the sale of the land under discussion? Did the study include an assessment of the value of the land? In case the answer is yes, please send me a copy of this impact study, especially the expert opinions of the real estate assessors.
(8) Please let me know what kinds of instructions were given to members of the government or organizations under their jurisdiction concerning their tasks in the interest of implementing the decision. Please give me inforrmation about the way the people involved completed their tasks.
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The best defense is a good offense. We know, for example, that no minutes are taken at cabinet meetings and therefore it is very unlikely that Orbán can produce all of the material Gyurcsány is demanding. By house rules, Orbán must answer in writing. I'm curious what his answer will be.