The end of the “Hungarian Watergate”?

On today’s Galamus Zsófia Mihancsik wrote one of her superb opinion pieces (“The Hungarian judiciary against the country of mafiosos”) about yesterday’s stunning news that all four of the accused in the UD Zrt. case were found not guilty. The judge also gave a piece of his mind to the prosecutors about the politically motivated accusations and the shoddy investigative work. In Mihancsik’s opinion the news of the day wasn’t so much that the European Commission gave its blessing to initiating talks with the IMF but this not-guilty verdict. She called it a triumph of the still independent judiciary.

I must have talked about this disgraceful affair at least five or six times since September 12, 2008 when it became known that Fidesz, then in opposition, used a company headed by former leaders of the National Security Office to spy on the Hungarian government. The socialist government’s National Security Office became suspicious of a company called UD Zrt. and, after getting the appropriate warrants, began monitoring the company’s telephone conversations. Hundreds and hundreds of calls implicated leading members of Fidesz, including László Kövér, today speaker of the house, in the spying activities.

This was terrible news for Fidesz, at the time leading in all the opinion polls. If it turned out that the party was involved in criminal activity the case could seriously damage not only the reputation of the party but its chances of winning the elections in a year and a half. If a serious investigation had revealed culpability, important Fidesz politicians could even have ended up in jail.

Thus, Fidesz had to act immediately. Instead of going on the defense, it launched a full-fledged offense with the help of the Hungarian prosecutor’s office. I wrote about this on April 13, 2011 in “Return to the Hungarian Watergate.” To make a very long story short, the obviously guilty parties, UD Zrt. and the Fidesz politicians involved, were transformed into the injured parties and György Szilvásy, minister in charge of the secret service in the Gyurcsány administration, and Károly Tóth, MSZP deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, were sued for unlawful activities that were injurious to the good reputation of UD Zrt.

An offshoot of the UD Zrt. affair was a Fidesz attempt, again through UD Zrt., to ruin MDF and its chairman, Ibolya Dávid. One must keep in mind that Viktor Orbán held a grudge against Dávid, who refused to run in the 2006 elections on a common ticket with Fidesz. To everybody’s surprise MDF managed to cross the 5% threshold necessary for parliamentary representation. Orbán was certain that it was MDF and within MDF especially Ibolya Dávid who was responsible for his failure to become the next prime minister of Hungary. I guess that after Ferenc Gyurcsány, it is Ibolya Dávid whom Orbán hates most among his political opponents.

Fidesz through intermediaries–István Stumpf (today a judge on the constitutional court) and András Giró-Szász (today the government spokesman)–offered a couple of billion forints to a young MDF member vying for Dávid’s place as head of the party. The young man, Kornél Almássy, was picked to make sure that at the next elections MDF would not stand in Fidesz’s way. While monitoring the UD Zrt. telephone calls, a call was recorded on the very topic of the removal of Dávid from her post. This tape was subsequently sent by an unknown person to Ibolya Dávid who, without mentioning names, released the information to the public and asked the prosecutors to investigate. The prosecutors, instead of investigating UD Zrt., decided that the guilty parties were actually Ibolya Dávid and her deputy, Károly Herényi.

 

Károly Herényi, Ibolya Dávid, Károly Tóth and György Szilvássy

Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy and József Debreczeni sitting behind them

The two cases, which were initially independent of each other, were combined by the prosecutors, apparently for political purposes. Fidesz, which I assume was behind the whole show trial, wanted to make sure that the Dávid-led MDF, a moderate right-of-center party, was being put on trial alongside an MSZP MP and a minister of the MSZP Gyurcsány government.

According to the judge, Csaba Vasvári, the accused parties acted in the spirit of the constitution and therefore they are not guilty. On the other hand, the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable and the indictment was inadequate, sloppy, and biased.

Yes, they were found not guilty in the lower court but those prosecutors who usually handle political cases decided that they will appeal. Whether there will be such a brave judge in charge of the case at the higher court as Csaba Vasvári was no one knows.

A lengthy interview of Ibolya Dávid by Gyögy Bolgár can be read on Galamus: Lessons of an absurd trial.” Put it this way, Ibolya Dávid, although at the moment saying nothing about her future political plans, is fired up as a result of these past four years. She rightly pointed out in this interview and also on ATV’s “Egyenes beszéd” that the outcome of these political show trials is immaterial for those who order them. The real aim is to ruin the political careers of their rivals. Ibolya Dávid was found not guilty but the stakes go behind her individual fate. The ruination of the moderate right-of-center MDF was the goal, and Fidesz managed to achieve that.

The same is true about Szilvásy and Tóth. Szilvásy was a close political and personal friend of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Putting him in jail and parading him handcuffed strengthened the public image of MSZP as rife with criminal activities, particularly in affairs connected to Ferenc Gyurcsány. Szilvásy’s problems are far from over. He is still being accused of spying for the Russians. Another trumped up charge, in my opinion.

Meanwhile the blurring of distinctions between MDF, MSZP, and lately DK is proceeding apace. MTI in its description of the final outcome of the trial casually mentioned that in the audience one could see József Debreczeni and Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy. The reporter “helpfully” pointed that that Debreczeni today is one of the deputy chairmen of DK and that Kerék-Bárczy attended the meeting that declared the establishment of Demokrata Koalíció. HírTV’s reporter after the trial approached Ibolya Dávid and asked her whether it is true that she was offered the deputy chairmanship of DK. Dávid in no uncertain terms told the woman that she does not give interviews to HírTV. It is against her principles.

And finally a footnote to this whole disgusting affair. UD Zrt. also sued the National Security Office and the Hungarian state for 1.8 billion forints claiming damages to the owners’ personal reputations. Yesterday, on the very same day Szilvássy and Tóth were found not guilty, the Hungarian state agreed on a full settlement. UD Zrt., a company that was illegally spying on the Hungarian National Security Office and other branches of the government, will receive 1.8 billion forints of taxpayer money in compensation!! I’m sure they will be appropriately grateful to Fidesz. Incredible.

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Paul
Guest

Imagine how it’s going to be when OV has complete control of the judiciary (and the central bank).
We are just a few loose ends away from an effective dictatorship.
And I can’t see how anyone can stop it. The EU? The opposition? The people?
Dark days.

petofi
Guest

@ Paul
In a best-case scenario, Hungary might prove to be the acid test for much more stringent rules in the EU; for setting up an oversight committee with full powers in all countries; and an armed European entity which, when voted special powers by the EU parliament, can, in very unique circumstances, enter a member country and establish a protectorate for as long as the EU deciders. One of those reasons to enter a country would be massive, government led corruption that significantly damages the welfare of the country’s citizens.
IT’S TIME TO BECOME EUROPEAN!

Dubious
Guest

Thanks Éva for the post. Very informative as always, and unfortunately a bit scary as always. I feel sorry for Ibolya Dávid and Károly Herényi

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

The mind starts to wonder, after reading this again.
The whole current government seems to be based on a lie. In fact they are going to be as underhanded as humanly possible to stay in power.
I think the Watergate scandal was a show stopper, but what the current Hungarian government is doing makes Watergate look like nickel and dime stuff.

LwiiH
Guest

Not at all shocking but this is what’s been going on in all of these investigations.
I had a friend get hit by a patent troll. He was very depressed because he didn’t have enough money to fight. But then he realized that if he came to an agreement with the troll that he could indemnify his customers in a way that none of his competitors could and so he turned this seemingly bad situation into a win.
In this case, Fidesz may have provided the lemons but the judge nicely provided the sweetener with his politically motivated comment.

stevvve
Guest

Just a quotation from the Zsofia Mihanchik, Galamus article: A magyar bíróság maffiaország ellen
“A félreértések elkerülése végett: az MTI-nek nem dolga, hogy a bírói ítéletek és indoklásuk iránt kétséget ébresszen.”
Galamus title: Hungarian courts in times of maffia rules
Regarding the Hungarian State News Agency MTI, Mihanchik writes:
“Without doubt, MTI should refrain from introducing deceitful accusations against the ruling of the judges.”

petofi
Guest

What is truly disgusting is that LAWLESSNESS on the part of the STATE is considered good government and justifiable by the hundreds of thousands of Fidesz supporters.
Hungary has become ungovernable by the sheer stupidity of the average voting citizen.

stevvve
Guest

Petofi – congratulations. Your characterization of the ungovernable Hungary is great.
Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? compares with your observation.
Harsanyi Janos created the well-known expression: veil of ignorance.
Is it a gradable subject in Hungarian kindergartens? No graduation, without ignorance?
This is a painful picture. Let us change it.

Member
petofi: The “LAWLESSNESS on the part of the STATE is considered good government and justifiable by the hundreds of thousands of Fidesz supporters.” I agree. It is very sad. I just cannot comprehend that how is it possible that does not matter what Orban says, how far fetched from the truth is, how idiotic Matolcsy ideas are and how it will effect Hungarians, how Schmitt lied and for that matter fraudelently presented his title for years in the International scene there are still members of Fidesz Fan Club. When you read the posts from Johnny Boy, who only posts when he thinks that from out of hundred times trying to pull one trick Fidesz is successful with one trick, you are just cannot believe that these people are not on some kind of drug. Well, money is drug, so I guess as long as their pocket is full, there will be no complaint from them. They are certainly not a Szechenyi or a Wesselenyi. ARe they aware what is happening? Of course they are. Johnny Boy must read our blog in order to chime in once in a while. He just cannot say a good word most of the time,… Read more »
The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Some1: “They are looking for an other magic trick, that can distract and awe.”
I think the next magic pony will be Mr Lazar “you’re worth as much as the sum of your belongings as a human being” Janos.
It’s fun to watch how Lazar plays with the Fidesz members and especially his game with the prime minister. I think Lazar was mighty pleased when he could take over brown-nosing spot #1, after Mr Schmitt resigned.

bernard de raadt
Guest

poor hungary what have they done with you

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