The Orbán family and corruption, Part II

Since a couple of days ago we finished with Tokaj and to some extent with the new house in Buda today I’ll move on to Felcsút. But first I ought to mention that although the house in Budapest looked quite modest before the Orbáns bought it, it was so thoroughly renovated and enlarged that Viktor Orbán, whose financial dealings were under parliamentary scrutiny at the time, made sure that no one could possibly see what was going on. Because it was situated far from the road, only an aerial photograph could be snapped. As you will see, this was an expensive undertaking.

The house in Buda at the time of purchase

The house in Buda after the enlargement

While this was going on, the Orbáns bought a piece of land (539,389 m2) in Felcsút worth 763 gold crowns. A gold crown is a measurement of the value of land in Hungary going back to an 1850s survey. The price was fabulous. The Orbáns paid less than 8,000 Ft per gold crown when in the County of Fejér the going price was 16,000 Ft. The seller was Sándor Bognár whom the Orbán government named to head a state experimental farm and who eventually purchased it without a competitive bid. Bognár became the lawful owner of the 54 hectares two weeks before the Orbáns received the land for half of the going price.

Six weeks later the parliament approved a government grant for Felcsút and another five villages nearby for flood control of inhabited areas. Originally, a group of experts considered the Felcsút project less than urgent. They placed it thirtieth in importance on a list they submitted to the Ministry of Interior dealing with these grants. Sándor Pintér, minister of interior then as he is now, disregarded the recommendations, put the Felcsút project at the head of the list, and the Fidesz majority on the parliamentary committee voted for it. Thus, forty days after the Orbáns bought the land, the project received the largest government grant of the year. Ahead of the reconstruction of a hospital. The grant amounted to 2.7 billion forints, which constituted 90% of the yearly budget for such projects.

Felcsút is a small place with a population of about 1,800. From this enormous amount of money the locals used a substantial sum not for flood prevention but to make the village a little jewel box of the county. A large amount of money went for stones, and who provided those? Yes, in case you guessed that it was the prime minister’s father, you were right. About forty percent of the whole amount was spent on bridges across the ditch that ran between the road and the houses, and the material for these bridges was supplied by Győző Orbán’s quarry and factory.

Felcsút is not exactly a metropolis

 

After this enormous investment in Felcsút real estate prices soared. The land the Orbáns purchased four years ago for 6 million forints today is worth 34.3 million. If the land were to be used for development, its worth might be closer to 400 million forints.

Felcsút is thriving. Thanks to Orbán, who is a maniacal soccer player and fan, with the help of his rich fans and surely some government money, a soccer academy was established in Felcsút. And who designed the Academy building? Imre Makowecz, the anti-semitic, super-nationalistic architect, who was until his recent death the unfailing supporter of Viktor Orbán’s vision for Hungary. The building is a typical Makowecz creation. Not to my liking, but I’m sure there are many who may find it attractive.

The Ferenc Puskás Academy

Viktor Orbán also managed to expropriate Ferenc Puskás as the idol of the right. I very much doubt that Puskás was interested in politics. In any case, we have no idea of his party preferences. Moreover, he was an Alzheimer’s patient for six years prior his death. But Orbán saw a great opportunity in building him up as an important part of his political career. He immediately named the academy after his hero and lately managed to get the Puskás archives moved to Felcsút. I don’t know what Puskás, who came from Kispest and played on the Kispest team, would think of all this, but the people of Kispest are not exactly happy.

It seems to me that Orbán, like other people with dictatorial tendencies, is building not only his family’s fortune but also a monument for himself. Years ago, we heard from Viktor Orbán himself that Saint Stephen had offered his country to the Virgin Mary either in or very close to Felcsút. Quite a beginning.

Even though Felcsút is flourishing thanks to its favorite son, it doesn’t seem that everybody in Felcsút is grateful to Viktor Orbán. At the last elections, the Fidesz candidate for mayor was beaten by an independent. Orbán reluctantly accepted the results. What else could he do? However, the Fidesz party machinery soon set everything right. The party leaders decided that the winner owed some money either to the town or to the government and thus was not even eligible to run. The election was repeated, and who do you think won?

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Guest

I just Google-mapped Felcsút to see this jewel-box better. To my amazement and great interest, the whole town is blurred. It is not until you get on the outskirts of the village that you can see the sharp detail Google is known for. I’m wondering how you get Google-maps to blur out your village?

Member

Ha. That’s right. South of Kolozsvar St. doesn’t have the same details as the northern part. Does anybody know the exact address of the Orban mansion?

Member

Maybe Orban worries about the speculative forces that would look into his garden, checking out if he has at least one pig and a place to tie the horses as it will be required by the new “unorthodox” economical programs by the government, as it spelled out in previous posts.
Question. So Orban never really worked in other capacity than politics. Did his wife done any significant work in her life? I am just wondering what is the source of their wealth, from such humble beginnings and being so oppressed by the communist government.
How much money is the Prime Minister makes /year. Let suppose they did not get any of the grants that was collected from taxpayers money, and given to them, how much money did they really earn? How much taxes did they pay on their Tokaj venture and so forth?

Paul
Guest

Nice theory, but this is just how Google Earth is. The images are made up of hundreds of satelite photos, of quite variable quality. It’s sheer luck if you get a good quality image for the place you’re interested in.
If you look further south, you’ll find that that particular band of poor resolution extends down almost as far as Velence.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “Does anybody know the exact address of the Orban mansion?”
I don’t but it isn’t much of a mansion. It is an adobe house, kind of Hungarian house that is all over in Hungarian villages. It doesn’t appeal to me but again that is question of taste.
I learned that adobe (vályog) is an expensive way to build a house nowadays. Adobe used to be the choice of really poor people. But that was in the old days. Since then it seems that it became again fashionable.

Guest

Re blurry map: a visiting researcher says that, for example, one cannot view Dick Cheney’s house with clarity. She know that Google makes accommodation with China about what is shown with clarity, so why not with Hungary.

Paul
Guest

I’m not saying they don’t do that, Gretchen, just not in this case. If you spend a few minutes on that part of the map you’ll find a wide rectangular band of less detailed satelite image, covering quite a chunk of that part of Hungary.
And if you use Google Earth a frequently you’ll find this happens a lot, especially in ‘less important’ places. Even Google can’t afford their own satelites and mapping, so they buy what they can find/book – and have to put up with the quality.
My flat in Debrecen is a bit on the blurry side as well (wheras just down the road you can practically see the people waiting at the bus stops). But, as far as I’m aware, Kósa doesn’t live anywhere near us.

Joseph Simon
Guest

We are dealing here with politics, where political power and wealth go hand in hand. Wealth creates political clout, they reenforce each other, one cannot survive without the other. Both Gyurcsány and Orbán understand the power of wealth in politics. Antall József was a decent man, a democrat, his hands were clean. Hence the quick demise of the MDF. More than half of US senators are multi-millionaires. That is how politics works everywhere.

Lutra lutra
Guest

Not “everywhere”, and there’s a big difference between a culture where rich people decide to run for office (such as the USA) and Hungary (where some people run for office because they want to get rich). Many former politicians in the UK become rich once they quit politics (Tony Blair springs to mind) because of who they know and what they know but what you and your family earn on top of your parliamentary salary is strictly monitored. Over the last couple of years a handful of MPs were jailed for falsely claiming tens of thousand pounds in expenses. Politics can work a heck of a lot better than it does in Hungary.

Member

@Joseph: Mr. Otter (lutra squared) answered it better. I just want to add that it might surprise you but there is a way to get rich legally (unlike Orban the 5th).
What’s tragic in the Land Of The Goulash is that many Orban believers will say that it’s OK, he deserves it, because he’s a good man, did a lot of good things for the country. Talk to the hand …

Ron
Guest

Off topic: Well it is a sort off topic. Perhaps this explains a lot regarding the problems of Hungary. Or not.
http://alphadesigner.com/blog/europe-according-penis-size/
But the largest is without a doubt Hungary.

Member

“She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. (Ezekiel 23:18–20)”
Horse nation!

Ron
Guest

By the way there is also bing maps. Sometimes they have better pictures than google maps.

peter litvanyi
Guest

Dear Eva,
well. Yes of course Mr. Orban is a corrupt individual.
Re: “I learned that adobe (vályog) is an expensive way to build a house nowadays.”
This is simply sooooo not true. I am a builder.
Peter Litvanyi

sample job descriptions
Guest

I agree that corruption can pull back the nation from the path of prosperity.

Wondercat
Guest

@gretchen (“I’m wondering how you get Google-maps to blur out your village?”): Ignore Paul’s well-intended attempts at rational explanation.
OV has the mystic power both to cloud men’s minds AND to fuzz GoogleEarth cameras.

Joseph Simon
Guest

One is slightly amused at these simplistic, sanctimonious epistles churned out daily here for the unquestioning faithful. The currency of politics is money and where there is money, there is corruption. Look up campaign finance in the US and you will lose your faith in democracy. It is just that in Hungary political corruption is more visible and murky due to special circumstances.

GW
Guest
Joseph Simon, Since when is the presence of corruption elsewhere ever an excuse for ignoring corruption in your own backyard? The temporary access to real power that a democratic election gives to an elected official is inherently dangerous, and not least to the fabric of democracy itself. For this reason, it is the responsibility of all citizens in every country to be constantly vigilant about abuses of office. Holding an elected political office is a privilege of citizenship and an honor bestowed by the votes of fellow citizens, not a right and certainly not a birthright. Every corrupt official is replaceable. That’s why the US Congress no longer counts Dan Rostenkowski or Randy Cunningham as members and that’s why each spent a long time in prison. The US has an acute problem of money in politics that are no less visible or murky than those in Hungary, especially the unlimited corporate funding of independent advertising and lobbying, but also the lack of a restriction on members of Congress voting on bills affecting corporations in which they have an ownership interest. These issues are among those at the center of the Occupy movement. However, the US does have an Occupy movement… Read more »
Guest
Poor Poor Hungary! – I’m an Englishman (average size 13.97! – Thank you Ron!) but you do seem to be ‘Donald-Ducking’ your country. You were ‘Donald-Ducked’ by the Habsburgs; the Turks; the Germans; the Soviets – and now you are doing it all by yourself! (Well Ok – Orban and Matolcsy!) You certainly seem to have picked the best of corruption techniques from the west – and some very novel economic mechanisms from the best of the African banana republics – there are some echoes of Mr Mugabi in Zimbabwe for really ‘Donald-Ducking your country – and Orban is doing very well! You have lots of friends in England and we wish you well in your survival techniques – Seriously though – the propaganda of the media in Hungary is worrying – especially from an Englishman’s perspective – it is the very foundation of democracy and it seems that only the diaspora know what is happening. Your political climate is a choice (some choice!) of the least worse. Winston Churchill said that “Democracy is the worst of all political systems, except for the rest” and it appears that this is especially true of Hungary. Your only real power for such… Read more »
Member

Blago just got a thorough introduction to the aforementioned Disney character. 14 years in the slammer for corruption. Now Joe, please explain what are those mythical special circumstances in Magyarland that help the FIDESZ guys to get away with the same blatant corruption?

Joseph Simon
Guest

Huge state enterprises were free for the taking on a scale not known or experienced in the West, where wealth accumulation was slower and corruption not as visible.

Paul
Guest

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis seems to have been prodded hard enough by Clinton to ‘write’ an article in Heti Valasz tomorrow,telling “the government (that) it should review its plans for sweeping reforms affecting democratic institutions”:
http://www.politics.hu/20111207/us-ambassador-concerned-about-hungarian-democracy/

Ron
Guest

Joseph Simon: Can you elaborate on your statement, “Huge state enterprises were free for the taking on a scale not known or experienced in the West, where wealth accumulation was slower and corruption not as visible”.
The entire comment does not make sense.

Kirsten
Guest

GW, I liked your comment very much. It is so widespread in the ex-Communist countries to be ‘disillusioned’ or ‘realistic’ (politics is always and of necessity corrupt), and unfortunately the evidence often supports that. That the difference might be in getting people involved who are able to behave differently and who actually also do that, including sustaining a majority for it, is close to inconceivable. Or that there is no magical, ‘automatic’ good behaviour but only through the controls of a society. Good to read from an ‘insider’ (ie from someone from a less ‘disillusioned’ society) that first it needs a less cynical approach to politics.

Member

Kirsten, I think the emphasis should be on the fact that in Hungary they get away with corruption. No consequences what so ever. To actually say something about the populations disillusionment or cynicism regarding politics they’d need “law and order” first. It’s unimaginable at this moment in Hungary that a politician gets 14 years for corruption (unless it’s a political opponent) like Rod Blagojevich today. This isn’t even a FIDESZ phenomenon. None of the previous administrations was keen to create and enforce laws that deal with money grabbing.
But your right. We always come back to the same conclusion that basically the apathetic population isn’t able to force the political parties to come up with good programs and keep their promises. “Long torn by ill fate”. Long bugged by Donald Duck.
I shouldn’t play with the anthem. DopeMan, a Hungarian rapper is investigated by the authorities for including lines from the national anthem into a song that is basically a perfect expression of how the ordinary people feel. The song is riddled with Hungarian f* words (the title is “Bazmeg”) but it’s pretty good:


Kirsten
Guest
Mutt, I am afraid they get away with corruption (not only in Hungary) because many people are ambivalent about it and many people are cynical. You will not get ‘law and order’ without a change in attitudes (if you do not want to have ‘law and order’ communist-style). I know that this sounds like squaring the circle. You wrote once that Fidesz (certainly others, too) will always find enough people who do the dirty job (prevent prosecution or penalisation; replace people who were sacked). In Esztergom the police did what it was told. So I think that some people actually do not know (or do) what they would do if offered the chance to gain from the ‘dirty’ business, while others may be worried how much support they would get if they were ‘brave’. That is why repeating over and over that it is also in the attitudes makes sense to me, even if that can be quite monotonous, and it is just one part of the job to be done. The ‘bad habits’ have also been learned through repeatedly seeing them or hearing about it (people cannot actually KNOW that every politician is corrupt). I trust that people are… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Thinking about this, and noting that there seems to be a relationship with geography/culture – i.e. that the northern European/German/Scandinavian countries/peoples seem to have less corruption – I began to wonder if this is actually a respect for the law issue. The countries of north-western Europe tend to have more of a ‘Germanic’ respect for the law – a deeply rooted feeling that there should be a law governing most things, and that this law should be fair and obeyed by all. And if bribery and corruption are allowed in such a system, the law rapidly becomes unfair and ineffective. So, perhaps it isn’t that us ‘Germanic’ peoples are inherently incorruptible or in some way morally superior to our southern and eastern cousins, it’s just that we want a society where the law is respected and obeyed, and corruption therefore has no place in that system? If that’s a valid argument, then maybe the key to the Hungarian situation is first to create an environment where the law is respected because it is seen as fair and just? It would then become in people’s interest to avoid bribery and corruption. They wouldn’t have to be ‘persuaded’ to give it up.… Read more »
An
Guest

Don’t know about the Scandinavian countries vs. Southern Europe, but it does seem to be that one reason Hungarian politicians can get away with being corrupt is the widespread corruption and the general attitude Hungarians have about “being smart”. While for most Hungarians it is OK to outsmart the system and, let’s say cheat on taxes, how could you expect politicians to be different and show high moral?
Honesty is a rare virtue in Hungary nowadays, unfortunately. Indeed, honest people are often thought to be stupid by the “smart” ones, who do not hesitate to use any situation to their advantage, even using unethical means. That is a general thinking in Hungary, and I believe, that is the root of the problem.
I live in the US now and can’t help to notice how much less unethical behavior is tolerated, not to mention that such behavior is generally looked down on rather than considered to be “smart”. Not that the US does not have its fair share of tricksters or corrupt politicians, but what is different is the general sentiment about how normal or acceptable these things are.

Member

@An I couldn’t agree more. The way I see this, there is no such thing as “our politicians will finally realize … yadi yadi yada”. They won’t. The change doesn’t start from the “top”. The country’s politicians ARE the people. Until we “produce” honest people, there will be no end of the misuse of power.
Demanding “law and order” would be a good start until we change. When Saint Ladislaus I in the 11th century Hungary started to cut off the hands of the thieves our ancestors stopped stealing chickens.

Art€
Guest

@Charlie H, just love it!! (putting on me Titfer and going out for a ‘laugh & a joke’)..
And of course refering to Blago; Go to Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, no Get out of Jail ‘Free’ cards; can’t throw a dubble six for this one!
And NOW Orbán……..

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