The never ending story of Sukoró

In case you forgot what Sukoró is all about, it was a land swap involving Joav Blum, a Hungarian-Israeli businessman, and the Hungarian state. The details of the swap were handled by the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő (MNV), a government office in charge of state properties.

Questions about the land swap emerged early, even before the 2010 elections. The government of Gordon Bajnai was under such fire that the decision was made to investigate the case. Soon enough Finance Minister Péter Oszkó fired Miklós Tátrai, the CEO of MNV. Oszkó subsequently proudly announced several times that Fidesz’s allegations of financial wrongdoing in connection with the land swap were completely unfounded because after all it was the socialist-liberal government that made the first move to look into possible illegalities in the transaction. With this statement he practically suggested individual wrongdoing even before the case got to court.

After Fidesz won the elections the new government immediately launched a parliamentary investigation into the Sukoró case; later the prosecutors also moved into action. The result was that both Miklós Tátrai and his deputy, Zsolt Császy, were arrested and kept in jail for a little over half a year. I devoted a fairly lengthy post to the subject (April 9, 2011), which might serve as background to today’s piece.

The subject of today’s post is an offshoot of the Sukoró land swap fracas.The case that was decided on April 17 in Miklós Tátrai’s favor involved the legality of his firing. Tátrai, if he had been let go under normal circumstances, would have received a whole year’s salary. However, Péter Oszkó fired him summarily (rendkívüli felmondás), an action that resulted in no compensation. The court decided that his summary dismissal was illegal and awarded him compensation for lost revenues with interest. Thus MNV will have to pay Tátrai about 200 million forints.

According to the court’s decision Péter Oszkó didn’t even have the right to dismiss Tátrai, only a body called Nemzeti Vagyongazdálkodási Tanács (NVT) could have fired him. Péter Oszkó, on the other hand, disputes the court’s findings. Given the frontal attack by Fidesz against Tátrai it seems to me fairly low of Oszkó to tell MTI that “there was no question that Tátrai had to go.” That was bad enough, but when I read that Oszkó also brought up that Tátrai is under criminal investigation which, to his mind, justifies his decision to fire Tátrai, I was more than astonished. I was disgusted. The final straw for me was Oszkó’s call for MNV to defend his decision instead of “using it as a political attack” on his person.

Accusation

Accusation/flickr

This statement was not left unanswered by Miklós Tátrai, who wrote an open letter to Péter Oszkó on his blog. It seems that Tátrai was especially outraged over Oszkó’s demand for protection by MNV when he “as minister in charge of MNV didn’t feel the necessity to defend the decision and associates of MNV from political attacks.” From Tátrai’s letter it is also clear that the settlement Tátrai signed included a clause stating that the parties involved don’t criticize each other in public, yet Oszkó immediately began a campaign against him.I find Oszkó’s behavior in this case symptomatic of the mentality of the Hungarian democratic forces. Instead of sticking up for each other, some of these folks sink so low as to stab in the back those who are accused of crimes they probably never committed. I am not expecting Oszkó to admit that he fired Tátrai illegally, but I certainly expect him not to dispute the court’s decision. He should just remain quiet, especially while the case against Tátrai and Császy is underway.

Tátrai rightly pointed out in his letter that whatever criminal investigation is underway at the moment, it has nothing to do with the labor dispute. The former minister of finance should, as a man with legal training, know about the presumption of innocence doctrine. Moreover, as a politician of left-liberal views Oszkó “suggests that those who are the victims of political attacks from the other side are actually guilty.” Tátrai strongly objects to such an approach in the name of all decent people who served under left-liberal governments.

Tátrai’s final sentence is really hard-hitting and I’m afraid only too true. “Don’t be surprised that when you look into the mirror you see the face of Gyula Budai.” Budai is the one who is in charge of investigating criminal cases associated with earlier administrations. Up to now Budai must have collected close to fifty cases. One is weaker than the next. Most of them don’t even get to be officially investigated.

Congratulations, Péter Oszkó. One fewer person to think highly of in Hungarian politics.

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John
Guest

Politics can be such as dirty business. Is there such thing as an honest politician?

Silas Tomkyn Comerbach
Guest
Silas Tomkyn Comerbach

Dear John!
Yeah! Tony Benn and George Galloway.

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Wow, mind-boggling.
I’m approximately 12 years younger than Peter Oszko, and I mention this because I was a big fan of Oszko, specially during the interim government. Now I just look at him as another opportunist.
🙁

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Did anyone notice that they are getting away with murder within the system in regards to the judges?
They are retiring more judges at the age of 62 to put in some of their own, and all this is going on during the EU conflict with the new law.
Sad, very sad.

Kingfisher
Guest
Sorry, you’ve totally lost me on this one. First of all, Oszkó is not a politician. He has never stood for office or been a member of one of the parties. He had a very impressive career in the private sector (i.e. he has actually had a job!) and was appointed as finance minister during Bajnai’s essentially apolitical term, in which he did a pretty good job cleaning up the mess created (or at least, not solved) by Veres and Gyurcsány. Do you really think Tátrai could have been the CEO of the MNV under the MSZP, and been a man of integrity and rectitude? Of course he wasn’t which is why Oszkó sacked him. As for Szukoró, I agree that the attempts to prosecute Gyurcsány seem contrived but if the project had come off, it would only have done so via a bribe to MSZP, so no real surprise if preparations for a crime were under way. We are back to the idée fixe of this otherwise admirable blog: that Gyurcsány and the MSZP (aside from a few rotten apples) are beacons of integrity and honesty. I think this is delusional. One of the things I admire about Oszkó… Read more »
Odin's Lost eye
Guest

@John yes there are, but all of them have to keep an eye open for opportunities for their own careers. However in some countries like this one they are very subject to the ‘Party Managers’.
@Hungarian Comedian The Viktator either ignores the E.U. (which he does at his and Hungary’s peril) or he just does not care. May be he thinks he is too great a person for them to deal with.
I do not think that any one in Fidesz realises the consequences of their actions. If they disobey the E.U. court and the EHCR it will be very expensive. If they tell the E.U. where to shove their regulations and their court orders, fines etc. Hungary will find its self virtually isolated. An island surrounded by tariff barriers unable to ship its exports anywhere except at great cost. Its currency would be valueless (nobody would want it). It could face ‘sanctions’.
I would love to read other contributors ideas about the problems Hungary would face if the other members of the EU turned their backs on it.
Oh yes please remember what the maps show us.

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Look at Oszko Peter go in this video… he really is a pro! He’s in the back, if you can spot him. 🙂


Eva Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “Sorry, you’ve totally lost me on this one. First of all, Oszkó is not a politician…. Do you really think Tátrai could have been the CEO of the MNV under the MSZP, and been a man of integrity and rectitude?”
(1) It makes no difference whether one is a politician or not. The man I’m talking about.
(2) I don’t like sweeping statements that all members of the earlier administrations were crooks. Just as I don’t believe that all Orbán appointees are scoundrels.
I still maintain that what Oszkó is doing in this case is unethical. He shouldn’t interfere with the judicial process. If Tátrai is guilty he will be punished preferably without Oszkó’s help.

Eva Balogh
Guest

I would like to call everybody’s attention to an article by Kim Lane Scheppele on Paul Krugman’s blog about TEK (Terrorelhárító Központ). The powers vested in this 900-member force is frightening:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/the-new-hungarian-secret-police/
In addition to the video mentioned in the article there is a new one that is worth looking at:


Member

@ Eva, I think Hollywood will take notice. At least they will be able to shoot everything on location while they have Vajna ar hand as an advisor.

An
Guest

Seems to me that Tatrai won the civil case based on a technicality (who was and who wasn’t allowed to dismiss him).
I am not a lawyer, but I thought that the presumption of innocence in a strict legal sense applies to the state, stating that it is the prosecution who should prove the accused guilty, and it is not the accused who should prove his/her innocence.
It happens quite often that people lose their jobs because they are charged with some criminal offence… It’s not fair, and I am not sure if people have any recourse once they are cleared from the charges.

Member

The Finance Minister has every right to can anybody he doesn’t want to work with. So that’s OK. ALso I wouldn’t read too much into this quarrel between them, I mean Oszko’s remarks about the criminal investigation. Lame, but not the end of the world.
But the glaring incompetence of the lawyers who advised Oszko on this labor issue is suspicious. Think about it: isn’t this a cute way to slip a cool 200 million HUF to Tatrai? By the way Tatrai also sued for the lost bonuses, so this could have been 300. Yeah, I know – open letter and all, but I don’t believe anybody. Beautiful choreography.
So Mr. Oszko. just, one thing. Whatever happened, you have wasted 200 million from our taxes.

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Thank you for the link to the Schepelle article. I can’t express how grateful I am that there are people like Schepelle, yourself, and all the way to some of the bureaucratic mechanisms in the EU that prevented the current government from totally demolishing our data/privacy laws.
I have a question for everyone; when you have a squad like the TEK at your fingertips, what is it you’re really preparing for? Is it an attack from the Jobbik? Or are you so afraid of your own people that you have to have this kind of setup? Or are you preparing for some future event that might not make you popular?
It’s mind blowing, the whole TEK squad looks like a computer game.

Odin's Lost eye
Guest

No TEK outfits which are a ‘Must to have’ for any modern dictatorship.

Minusio
Guest

Isn’t what we are witnessing basically the convulsions of a decapitated society?

LwiiH
Guest

repeat from other posting. I don’t know what is scarier, the article or the reader comments.

LwiiH
Guest

@mutt, the minster has every right to can anyone he can’t work with that is working for him. Unfortunately these guys don’t know how to work with *anyone*.

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[…] idea to start with “What can happen to investors in Hungary” and continue with “The never ending story of Sukoró.” Moreover, I have the feeling that this is not the last time that we will talk about this […]

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