More and more arrests, most likely on phony charges

Last night György Szilvásy, a friend, business partner and political ally of Ferenc Gyurcsány, was arrested. Although no official word has come yet about the charges, everybody assumes that he is accused of subversion (államellenes bűncselekmény), a word that sends shivers down the spines of Hungarians who know anything about the events of the 1950s. It was in those days that people were condemned to death or received very stiff sentences for "subversion." These people were often in high government and/or party positions. In fact, both Ferenc Gyurcsány and his political ally in MSZP, Csaba Molnár, claim that no high government official has been charged with this crime since the 50s. Szilvásy may be the first.

There is no question that Szilvásy has long been a target of Fidesz. If Ferenc Gyurcsány is Enemy #1, then Szilvásy is definitely Enemy #2 in Viktor Orbán's eyes. Interestingly enough, once upon a time Orbán had a high opinion of both. An old video from 1988-89 surfaced a few years ago in which the young Orbán talks disparagingly about the mental capacity of most of the KISZ (Communist Youth Organization) leaders with the exception of Gyurcsány and Szilvásy.

We know why Orbán came to hate Ferenc Gyurcsány. He was humiliated by Gyurcsány's stunning victory in the 2006 debate between the candidates for the post of prime minister. But why did Szilvásy, the minister responsible for the intelligence services in the Gyurcsány government, become a target? Well, that is a long story which I talked about repeatedly as the story unfolded. A search for "UD Zrt" in Spectrum's archives will pull up three or four posts on the subject.

In a nutshell, the National Security Office, which was under the ministerial supervision of György Szilvásy, became suspicious of the activities of a company called UD Zrt. that on the surface was no more than a bunch of private detectives. Mind you, these detectives were former employees of the National Security Office who either took early retirement or were fired after Fidesz lost the elections. The National Security Office became convinced that something was not quite right with UD Zrt. and they received permission to wiretap telephone conversations of employees of UD Zrt. The growing suspicion in government circles was that UD Zrt. was actually Fidesz's private investigative arm that by illegal means was gathering data for Fidesz.

And indeed, most interesting conversations were captured. There were several calls between the owners of the "firm" and Fidesz politicians László Kövér and Ervin Demeter who both were ministers in charge of national security in the first Orbán government. The recordings clearly showed that they were repeatedly giving instructions to the owners of UD Zrt. to get inside information that they deemed necessary for their political purposes. Moreover, UD Zrt. was also instructed to gather "dirt" on Ibolya Dávid, head of MDF, a moderate conservative party and the bête noire of Viktor Orbán, who blamed her for his loss of the elections in 2006. The goal was to ruin MDF for the temerity of running and getting into parliament on its own.

There was at least one telephone conversation between the head of UD Zrt. and Sándor Csányi, president of OTP, Hungary's largest bank, which made me suspicious that it was actually Csányi who financed UD Zrt. All in all, this was very, very dirty business.

If the prosecutor's office had done what they were supposed to do, by now perhaps László Kövér and Ervin Demeter would be sitting in jail. But as usual nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, the prosecutors decided that the real culprit wasn't anyone behind UD Zrt. but instead was György Szilvásy, who released the documents to the members of the parliamentary committee on national security, as they demanded. The documents subsequently became public because the Fidesz members of the committee illegally passed on the tapes and the party decided to put them on the Internet.

So, in a bizarre twist of fate the prosecutor's office charged Szilvásy with the illegal distribution of state secrets and the poor man has been spending years in and out of court battling these charges. A case like this may take five or six years, if not more.

However, it seems that the case against Szilvásy on the UD Zrt. front might not have been going well because Fidesz and the prosecutors decided to come up with something bigger. The opening was the arrest of Lajos Galambos, head of the National Security Office between 2004 and 2007. The ostensible reason for the arrest was that a foundation on whose board he served was allegedly used for some illegal financial deals. Well, that was certainly an opening. Let's arrest Galambos and, since Szilvásy was Galambos's boss, perhaps he can be dragged into the case.

Because Galambos was a military man, a major general, his arrest was initiated by the Budapest Military Prosecutor's Office. He was first arrested for bribery but in no time the charge changed: it was suddenly espionage. On whose behalf Galambos is supposed to have spied is a secret. And this is not just a turn of phrase. The details of the charge of espionage cannot be publicly disclosed because they are official state secrets.

Espionage is a very serious charge and the military prosecutors naturally asked for pre-trial detention. But again, the case was obviously so weak that the court didn't grant the prosecutors' request. Of course, they are appealing. Galambos apparently gave a full statement and declared himself to be innocent of the charges.

I became suspicious that Galambos was really not the final target when I read that someone who took part in the investigation said to Blikk, a tabloid, that "we don't think that the position and influence of Galambos would have been sufficient to halt the investigation of the affair [the foundation] and therefore we suspect that the alleged chain of evidence will lead higher up." And who was there higher up? Galambos's boss, György Szilvásy.

That was on Thursday. Last night György Szilvásy was arrested. According to newspaper reports Galambos implicated him. That seems unlikely, but who knows? Hungary is becoming increasingly surreal.

The latest is that Galambos's successor, Sándor Laborc, was arrested a couple of hours ago. He was also no favorite of Fidesz because it was under his tenure that the wiretapping of UD Zrt. took place. In the wake of the UD Zrt. affair Laborc was under such attack by Fidesz that he decided to resign his post and retire. Obviously, that didn't save him from the wrath of Viktor Orbán.

Most likely the whole thing is a badly prepared "investigation" of a non-existent crime by people who tried to put an end to the illegal activities of Fidesz. Perhaps by manufacturing these cases the current government simply wants to keep up the suspense and satisfy Jobbik, which wants retribution very badly. (I doubt it.) Or perhaps as one headline of a right-wing publication said: "The net is closing in on him." And we know who "him" is: Ferenc Gyurcsány. 

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Paul
Guest

So, now he’s no longer in the EU limelight, as we feared, the real ‘two-thirds revolution’ begins.
All hail the Viktator.

Paul
Guest

But somebody clearly thinks OV is doing something right – the forint is ‘down’ to 292 to the £ tonight, the strongest I’ve ever seen it.
Still, at least this might finally convince our Debreceni neighbours that we’re not the rich foreigners they think we are!

Member

Kövér László not János. One of the mucky mucks of Fidesz.

nwo
Guest
I believe the major political parties acted under an unwritten rule for many years that each would look the other way in terms of flagrant corruption. The final act in this behavior was the splitting of Slager and Danubius between the two parties. If that era has come to an end, that would be good news. If that era has been replaced by a new reign of terror with a completely politically motivated use of the judicial system as a way to play politics and intimidate the opposition(as it appears ans is certainly possible), then the country will fall even faster and further outside the norms of normal, healthy countries. Goodbye Italy, hello Belarus. As for Paul’s comments on the HUF strength, everyone should understand by now that capital markets are completely amoral. Arresting a bunch of old hacks from the old regime will not influence the markets in the short term if the trajectory on Government finances remain strong. One would hope that in the medium term this type behavior will have an impact in deterring Western firms from coming to Hungary, and this will eventually impact the economy. But even then, for all those companies and people who… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “Kövér László not János.”
This is not the first time that I give him the name János. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I dislike him so much.

Member

nwo, certainly the amoral practices of China did not make them undesirable financial partners either. Capitalism is about “profit made”, and it does not matter to much how we arrive to the final numbers. Right now the measures taken by Orban makes the books balance well.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Apart from that the arrested are not favorites of Fidesz, you bring absolutely nothing to the table as for why these charges would be phony.
How come you managed to write such a long article saying nothing then?
Don’t you feel you should need to back up at least a minor fraction of your claims?

DAVE
Guest
If anyone has any doubts whether or not Hungary is still a democracy… they shouldn’t. It became a totalitarian regime, a one-man dictatorship with plenty of faithful party soldiers, who have no decency, no brains, only the willingness to follow their beloved leader… It is the shame of the EU and its basic regulations that they cannot interfere in the affairs of a member country. In a DECENT world Mr. Orban would have been stopped right after his first anti-democratic move(s). But Europe did nothing to stop the dictator, whose acts are putting back Hungary into the 1930’s, and into a state that even if he and the FIDESZ would fall, it would take decades to recover from. Recover morally, economically and socially. But no one is stopping him so far, and by the time there will be no option but intervene by outside powers, the country may be in the midst of an uprising… Where are the leaders of Europe; Angela Melker, Sarkozy and the rest? When shall we hear their outcry that one of their member states is rapidly turning on the path of fascism? I am afraid that maybe never, and the tragedy of the Hungarian people… Read more »
Paul
Guest

“Don’t you feel you should need to back up at least a minor fraction of your claims?”
I had to clean the screen after reading this!
If you didn’t exist, SB, we’d have to make you up!

Kirsten
Guest
“Where are the leaders of Europe; Angela Melker, Sarkozy and the rest? When shall we hear their outcry that one of their member states is rapidly turning on the path of fascism?” Reading that after having read that a number of blogs are being closed down because one letter was sent to one newspaper the consequences of which are not yet clear I am not sure what type of dictatorship you are speaking of. I see that positions are being abandoned before the fact. So Frau Merkel and Monsieur Sarkozy should send an army to do what exactly, push people to re-open the blogs that were deliberately closed down? Send books and pamphlets that inform people of their rights? If things are getting worse and worse as you write, it would be worth the effort to document it in a way that can be used in international courts. I annoy the other contributors to this blog over and over with this fact but the opposition has to come also from within. The country that applied for EU membership has signed treaties that it will observe democratic principles and it is Hungary’s obligation to comply with these treaties. The tragedy of… Read more »
Member

Johnny, It could be last weeks Law and Order marathon, but I really had the idea, that it’s the prosecutors job to prove the alleged crime. Do you think the Hungarian justice system will turn to private bloggers for help?
These arrests very much look like political show trials, don’t you think? People getting arrested with no charges or charges that are not supported with evidence and being kept locked up for a long time while nothing’s happening. They also happen to be the political adversaries of the current prime minister? Come on Johnny, throw me bone! You at least have to admit the striking resemblance to show trials ..
I’m thinking, on the other hand, ordering people’s arrests with no evidence (likely for political reasons) IS a crime. So when the Hungarian justice system will function again somebody should look into these cases and the responsible will have to stand trial for it.

Ron
Guest

Kirsten: I annoy the other contributors to this blog over and over with this fact but the opposition has to come also from within.
You are absolutely right, but there will no opposition from within. Since I am in this country, I hear “This is Hungary”, so accept it and let it be.
I do not have high hopes for real opposition, especially after the letter from this bureaucrat and the so-called intellectuals to Hilary Clinton. That is the attitude, you will not be able to change this overnight.
Do only thing what you can do now it to gather info on who is doing what, and eventually charge them with abuse of office and make them personal responsible for what they have done or not done. I suggest to start with the prosecutors.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Kirsten the best and greatest resistance always comes from within. We who are really outsiders even though some of us live here can do very little. It has to be Hungarians who take the ‘Mighty One’ to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In a few months time it has to be Hungarians who petition the European Parliament. It is Hungarians who have start campaigns of ‘Civil Disobedience’ which do not actually break the law, but annoy the Authorities. Just before the lid blew off in 1956 it seems that Hungarians just stopped going to the concerts and other fun and games provided by the Russian Army. Have a good look round your locality and see what ‘Official Junketings’ the people can stay away from.

Member

Totally off subject but I am a great admirer of art, and I though many of you would be interested about this exhibition in London, England. I am thinking to take a cheap flight.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jul/03/eyewitness-hungarian-photography-20th-review

Jano
Guest

While I’m certain that these arrest wouldn’t happen if the colors of the government would be different, I don’t see any reason why these charges should necessarily be phony. Yes, the prosecution has to prove guilt, but that doesn’t happen overnight either. The case starting with Egymásért&Másért which lead up to this point has long been known and started under the previous government.
I absolutely agree with Kirsten once again on seeking help from the west. People are waiting for a credible opposition, free of the well worn old faces. If there was an election held today, Fidesz would clearly win it. Everybody knows that and this is why the opposition parties don’t demand early election.

John T
Guest

As I’ve said before, let the judicial process take its course, rather than pass premature judgement.
If these charges do turn out to be baseless, then I think I’d have a few more things to comment on. But let’s wait and see, eh?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Jano “The case starting with Egymásért&Másért which lead up to this point has long been known and started under the previous government”
Sure, but espionage?

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul: do you think any of Eva’s claims are backed up, apart from ‘we all know how evil OV is’?

Johnny Boy
Guest

John T: “As I’ve said before, let the judicial process take its course, rather than pass premature judgement.”
It’s very rare to see such a sane argument here and this one too will doubtlessly fail to fall on fertile ground.
But John T your suggestion is hopeless, the verdict is already ready: if the charges turn out to be solid, it is going to be Polt and Fidesz’s pressure on the judiciary system. There is no way Szilvásy and his mates can be guilty here.

Member

Johnny: No. I agree with John T. If the trial will be public, and the evidence will be clear, we all will accept the outcome. Let justice prevail.
But you have to understand Prof. Balogh. NONE of the charges so far against the arrested (since the FIDESZ took over) was proven. All we see is people spending time in the slammer and the prosecution didn’t prove anything. You have to understand our suspicion. Also the people who got arrested are from the circles off Gyurcsany (the previous prime minister) so our obvious conclusion is that the Orban government is targeting them because of this. So in short unless there is a public trial with all the evidence made public we have to assume these are show trials. We don’t mind if they prove us wrong.

jellem-senkinek-nem-inge
Guest
jellem-senkinek-nem-inge

the hope has been killed by the fidesz/rosszabbik clique.
The jobbik is contaminating the public waves.
the corruption is earthshaking.
where are the intelligent hungarians hiding?

Kirsten
Guest

And the big prize in store for you, Johnny, is that if they are not, OV will gain a reputation of a fair contestant. I am sure that this is a title that he would die for.

Johnny Boy
Guest
Mutt: “But you have to understand Prof. Balogh.” I understand. Truth doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that Fidesz is the Root Of All Evil and they can enver be right, moreover, if during their governance the authorities charge someone from the opposing political camp, it can only be a phony charge. She would immediately fail any logic test at elementary school level. “NONE of the charges so far against the arrested (since the FIDESZ took over) was proven” Maybe because none of those cases were closed? Or that doesn’t matter? “Also the people who got arrested are from the circles off Gyurcsany (the previous prime minister) so our obvious conclusion is that the Orban government is targeting them because of this” The really obvious conclusion (but you should have written suspicion) is that Gyurcsány’s circles are high-class economic criminals, plain and simple. Their main motivation to exercise power is to pursue their illegal actions with the greatest efficiency. You may think this is madness but most of Hungary is pretty convinced it is true. Gyurcsány had some obvious criminal cases before, in one them he was pronounced guilty but declared that the case had already become forfeited.… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

I saw in the news that the arrogant Ágnes Vadai (as if she weren’t gruesome enough just by appearance) wants to summon the Committee of National Security to investigate the current case in which the arrests took place.
This is a communicational own goal. Their (MSZP’s) credibility is far below the credibility of the authorities, so she will only end up with calling a lot more attention to the fact that some of their highest ranking gang members were arrested.
There is a Hungarian joke with the outcome ‘aki szarban van, ne ugráljon’ (if you are in deep shit, keep it low).

Paul
Guest

Oh Johnny Boy! (see what I did there?)
You really are a card.

Kirsten
Guest

With such wisdom at hand, Johnny and his friends must be well prepared for the next years.

Member

@Johnny “She will never be able to handle the situation. She just lacks the guts to admit anything.”
I think you are wrong. You hate Prof. Balogh for what she does on this blog and you just make up shit against her.

Jano
Guest

Eva: I don’t know about espionage either, but the prosecution hasn’t really come forward with what they have yet. Many thing can fall legally under espionage, so I’d wait with even forming my opinion until I see the charges. Rumor has it that the whole thing has to do with helping the Russians getting the MOL shares. I don’t find this unbelievable at all but again, I’ll wait until I know more.

Paul
Guest

The thing that most strikes one about Fidesz supporters is what thoroughly nice people they are.
Just the sort you’d want to run the country.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Mutt Damon: ok, please give me just ONE example when she admitted Fidesz did something right.
Just ONE.

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