We are apt to have short memories. Most people with only a cursory interest in public affairs have long since forgotten things that happened ten years ago. And yet it is most useful to recall events that reveal a lot about politicians. For example, about Viktor Orbán.
But first let me quote a few wise words from the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States. In one of her many letters to her husband, Abigail Adams wrote: "I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or few is ever grasping." Adams, arguably the most influential of the Founding Fathers, believed that all good government was republican and that the "true idea"of a republic was "an empire of laws and not of men." All this came to mind when I was thinking of Viktor Orbán's past and present actions and his philosophy of governing. And talking about governing. There is another observation of John Adams about Thomas Paine, who in his opinion had "a better hand at pulling down than building." This is also appropriate in the case of the Hungarian prime minister who at the moment is trying to demolish everything the new democratic politicians built in the last twenty years. We will have to wait to see what he will build in the next three years.
But back to the topic of the day. I think it is worth quoting the definition of fiduciary responsibility from the Hungarian Criminal Code. "That official person who in order to cause illegal disadvantage or advantage disregards his duties, exceeds his authority, or takes advantage of his situation commits a crime that is punishable by a jail term of three years."
According to Tamás Bauer, a former SZDSZ member of parliament who is thoroughly familiar with the case of the enrichment of Viktor Orbán's father during his son's tenure as prime minister, Orbán committed a breach of fiduciary responsibility in the late 1990s. At that time Dunaferr Rt. was owned by the Hungarian state. Before Orbán became prime minister the firm had a contract with Mészkő és Dolomit Kft., a company that provided Dunaferr with crushed stone. As soon as Viktor Orbán became prime minister he initiated a change of management at Dunaferr. One of the first moves of the new management was to break the contract with Mészkő és Dolomit Kft. From there on Dunaferr purchased crushed stone from Győző (the Hungarian equivalent of Viktor) Orbán's quarry. As a result, the owner of Mészkő és Dolomit Kft., János Zarándok, went bankrupt and Győző Orbán's company flourished. In 1998 Orbán's firm had sales of 371 million forints; by 2000 sales had almost doubled to 726 million forints.
At the same time the Orbán government reluctantly began building a few kilometers of a four-lane highway. Vegyépszer Rt., a firm that up to that point had done no road construction, got the contract. It is true that Vegyépszer didn't purchase stone from Győző Orbán's quarry but his competition, Mészkő és Dolomit Kft., was excluded from the list of potential suppliers. Instead, two newly formed companies, Bányaker Bt. and Femol97, became the main suppliers of crushed stone for the road construction. Investigative journalists soon discovered that the stone was being delivered from the Orbán quarry to the construction site through these two companies. So, indirectly the elder Orbán profited although he bitterly complained that there was no true democracy in Hungary because, if there were, he wouldn't be excluded from taking advantage of the business opportunities of the road construction. Like his son, the elder Orbán also has some peculiar ideas about democracy.
This wasn't first time that Győző Orbán's quarry was in the news. Ten years earlier, in 1991, Orbán was the manager the then state-owned quarry, and he decided that it would be a good idea to privatize the company. But there was one problem. He had no money.
However, Fidesz, his son's party, had just received a sizeable sum from the sale of a valuable piece of real estate given to the party gratis by the government. Fidesz used some of this money to set up several companies, most of which eventually went bankrupt. One of these Fidesz companies was Quality Invest Rt., which generously purchased a part of the quarry desired by the elder Orbán for 4.75 million forints. Half a year later the elder Orbán's new company purchased that part of the business from Quality Invest Rt. for 1.2 million forints! A good deal if I ever saw one. The elder Orbán by 2001 didn't remember any of the details. He claimed that the business geniuses behind Fidesz–Lajos Simicska and Csaba Schlecht–merely gave him advice.
I think Orbán is making a mistake by allowing or actually initiating the phony charge against Gyurcsány. People who forgot all about the financial shenanigans surrounding Papa Orbán's quarry will suddenly be reminded of one story after the other about the Orbán family's enrichment. Given Orbán's declining popularity, these stories will not enhance his reputation.