Just as the two-thirds Fidesz-KDNP majority assisted by Jobbik and LMP voted to suspend Ferenc Gyurcsány's parliamentary immunity it seems that the case against the former prime minister is already falling apart.
It is a complicated affair, not because it is intrinsically murky but because there are forces who want to make it that way. In fact, the murkier the better because by the end a whole complicated construct can be built in which no one can see clearly what really happened.
The case without the extra artificial complications piled upon it by the prosecutors and by Gyula Budai, the special investigator of corruption cases, was originally very simple. There was a group of investors who wanted to build a casino complex near Székesfehérvár, on the shore of a lake. One of the investors had a piece of land not far from Budapest, on the other side of the Danube, where according to the present laws governing gambling no casino can be operated. The investors therefore came up with the idea of a land swap. Joáv Blum, an Israeli-Hungarian citizen, offered his orchard in exchange for a tract of land belonging to the state where investors could build and operate a casino. I wrote about the case twice. First in August 2010 and four months later when I pointed out that Budai and the government behind him decided that if they are unable to bring charges against Gyurcsány in connection with the riots of September-October 2006, perhaps the casino affair will do. Those readers who are not familiar with the background should read my earlier articles. I don't want to go too much into the background here. Instead I will concentrate on how the prosecution's case is falling apart.
Joáv Blum, whose orchard was offered for the swap, naturally became the center of the attacks even though the real targets were not so much the investors as the Hungarian politicians and officials who were in any way involved with the case.
According to the prosecutors Blum's sins were numerous, including the charge of "forgery of official documents." Well, if you wonder what Hungarian prosecutors consider forgery of official documents, you may be surprised to hear the details of this case. Blum registered himself as a resident of a house he purchased in Sukoró, the village where the casino complex was to be built. He couldn't move in immediately because the house needed extensive repairs. But according to Hungarian law, which by the way a lot of people flaunt, one cannot register as an inhabitant of a dwelling unless he/she lives there all the time. Blum, who apparently doesn't know any Hungarian and is not familiar with Hungarian law, relied on his lawyer and on the mayor of Sukoró. Both of them assured him that there was nothing wrong with the registration.
Yesterday the court at Székesfehérvár acquitted Blum of the charge of forgery of an official document. The prosecution is appealing. After all, one cannot let this very important case fall by the wayside.
But that is small potatoes in comparison to what is most likely going on within the walls of the prosecutor's office. Before the swap took place the officials of the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő, which handles state property transactions, hired four appraisers, three of whom came up with almost identical estimates. The fourth was way out of line: he claimed that there was a huge difference between the values of the two pieces of property. It was this outlier estimate that the prosecutors accepted as the basis of their decision to pursue the case. Now, however, there seems to be some question about the estimate the prosecution relied on. The prosecutors are asking for further data and information about this firm's estimate. It looks as if the prosecution fears that the court might not find its "proof" substantial enough.
And there might be further troubles facing the Hungarian government. There is an organization called the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes that operates under the World Bank. The men whose investment was foiled by the Hungarian government turned to the ICSID. If the decision goes against the Hungarian government here, which I suspect it may, the Hungarian government is in big trouble. An ICSID decision is final. And that will be a very expensive affair for an ugly political game the Hungarian government is playing.
Finally a good piece of news in another case. A former employee of the Ministry of Education, Tímea Borovszky, was falsely accused of bribery. In the lower court Borovszky received a two-year suspended jail sentence. However, yesterday on appeal she was found innocent. However, this is not the end of Borovszky's trouble. Gyula Budai initiated another case against her. This time she is accused of–what else–breach of fiduciary responsibility.
At least it seems that for the time being Hungarian courts are still independent and are following their best professional judgment. However, one is not at all sure whether this will be the case once 300 some judges are forced to retire at the age of 62 or when in special cases the prosecution can pick which court will handle its cases. All in all, the prospects for a truly independent judiciary are dim.
And finally, the numbers of signatures in support of the former prime minister are growing. Up to this point almost 7,500 people signed the protest. If anyone is interested in joining the group here is the URL: