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.