Kuruc.info’s Béla Varga of California and Mór

Péter Szijjártó received the fancy title of undersecretary in charge of international communication, but in fact he was demoted. János Lázár, the man Viktor Orbán moved from his positions as mayor of Hódmezővásárhely and leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, became chief of staff in the prime minister’s office, and he immediately decided to do a thorough spring cleaning. Lázár obviously convinced Orbán that Szijjártó, who is the object of ridicule at home, should be let go. Unfortunately, I don’t think that sending him all over the world will do much for his or the country’s reputation.

Szijjártó began his foreign trips by visiting Washington for two or three days. He talked to some people in the State Department and met some of the “most important Jewish leaders” in the United States. He asked them to lend a helping hand to silence kuruc.info, the notorious anti-semitic site that uses a server in the United States. As we discussed at length on July 5 and after, and as László Bartus wrote in Népszava, although the server–Cloudfare as some of our readers discovered–operates from the United States, kuruc.info is edited and published in Budapest. The problem must be remedied in Hungary. Especially as there is a strong possibility that one of kuruc.info’s benefactors, Béla Varga, a winemaker in California, also has a winery in Mór, Hungary.

Varga’s name was widely circulated in 2010 when Tamás Bodoky, an investigative journalist, reported on the financial dealings of kuruc.info and discovered that the advertisers receive no receipts and that the fees must be paid either in U.S. dollars to the bank account of Béla Varga or delivered as cash in a sealed envelope and given to an employee of  Turania, a small shop in District VI. These financial transactions are clearly in violation of the tax laws in both Hungary and in United States.

Why do I write about this particular case today? Because Béla Varga’s name cropped up again, this time in connection with the flashmob organized in front of the house of László Csatáry, who is being investigated for war crimes. A day after the event kuruc.info called on its readers to identify the members of the group who took part in the demonstration. The editors proudly announced that they already managed to learn the identity of “seven anti-Hungarian Jews,” adding that “those who manage to send the most usable data will receive 100,000 forints, 75,000 of which was donated by our brother-in-arms Béla Varga, who lives in the United States.”

Pusztaranger, the excellent German-language blog, also reported on the case. According to the Ranger, within 48 hours 93,000 people read kuruc.info and managed to identify most of the participants. Since then the participants have been harassed on the Internet and by telephone. The Ranger collected a large amount of material on Varga from earlier Hungarian sources, adding some research of his own.

I was intrigued and decided to learn a little more about this Béla Varga. I discovered among other things that the self-portrait Mr. Varga provides in the United States has little resemblance to reality.

First, I couldn’t quite believe that Béla Varga of Napa Valley, California, is the same person as Béla Varga of Mór. Their life stories were so radically different. Let’s start with the Californian Varga. Varga is hailed in wine circles as a very talented winemaker who between 1999 and 2007 was the head of the operations of Claar Cellars. He is described as “a Hungarian by birth who received his Masters Degree in Enology and Viticulture from Budapest University.” In 2007 he changed jobs. He was hired as the winemaker of Callaway Vineyard&Winery. In the press release he is described as someone “with stellar winemaking credentials.” From the press release we find out that he received his M.S. from Budapest University in 1988, the same year he climbed “over the Iron Curtain and scaled barbed wire fences to leave leave his native country. He ended up in Canada where he worked for eight years as winemaker for Vincor, Canada’s largest producer and marketer of wine and related products.”

We also learn from the press release that Béla Varga is a talented jazz pianist. “At the young age of five, Varga began playing the piano by ear and was immediately enrolled in music education schools. He graduated from the Budapest Jazz Conservatory in 1985 and has played with Moe Koffman, Maynard Ferguson and Pat Metheny.”

Béla Varga of California

One doesn’t have to go any farther to know that something is not quite right with the information Varga provided to his new employers at Gallaway Vineyard&Winery. Although it is true that graduates of ELTE (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem) often try to simplify the name of the university and call it simply University of Budapest, ELTE has no Department of Enology and Viticulture.  There is such a department at Gödöllő Agrártudományi Egyetem (nowadays called Szent István Egyetem, Gödöllő). Then I began to look for the Budapest Jazz Conservatory, but the only thing I came up with was the Egressy Béni Zeneművészeti Szakközépiskola és Gimnázium. There they teach jazz, but the trouble is that this high school opened its doors only in 2002 and the first students of the school graduated only in 2006. There is also the problem of climbing over the barbed wire between Austria and Hungary. By then the barbwire fence was mostly gone. Moreover, by then Hungarians could travel freely to the West. Our man most likely simply decided to stay behind.

Béla Varga of Mór

Now let’s see the bio of Béla Varga of Mór where he is the owner of Varga és Fia Pincészet. His own father was already a vintner in the Balaton region. Our man claims that he began learning the ins and outs of winemaking in the Élelmiszeripari Szakközépiskola (a high school specializing in the food industry). His schooling entitled him to the title of “technician” and he worked as such at the Badacsonyvidéki Pincegazdaság in Ászár for a year and a half. After serving two years in the army in 1978, he got a job at the Móri Állami Gazdaság.

At this point Varga resorts to some verbal tricks to conceal the fact that in 1988 he left Hungary and asked for political asylum in Canada. So, if he spent nine years with the vineyards of Mór, he must have left the state company in 1987-88. However, he continues by saying that in 2000 “after the Móri Állami Gazdaság was liquidated” he and his son started a winery of their own on 20-30 hectars. There is a problem here. The Móri Állami Gazdaság was liquidated in 1990 and not in 2000.  Thus, through clever wording Béla Varga’s and his son Máté’s trip to Canada and later to the United States is simply covered up.

The huge difference in the accomplishments of the two Béla Vargas confused me. No, I said, that cannot be the same man. After all, the name Varga is very common. Moreover, I found another Béla Varga who was also a vintner who is an export manager of the Tokaj Kereskedőház. But then I compared the two pictures, one given on a site that devoted considerable energy to uncovering the editors of kuruc.info and the other one that was included in a list of the top 100 vintners in Hungary. There is no doubt there is only one Béla Varga whose Hungarian vineyard is most likely managed by his son, Máté.

Apparently, the Budapest Chief Prosecutors’ Office is investigating the case. I suggest that they pay a visit to Mór to Varga és Fia Pincészet. One doesn’t have to talk to the American authorities or travel to Napa Valley, California. At the same time perhaps the Internal Revenue Service might be interested in  Béla Varga’s tax returns.

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Guest
Jano
July 23, 2012 6:44 pm

Wow what a story, I’m simply speculating but something is damn not right here… This is better then a CSI episode, and since there is actualy a fair amount of money involve my instincts tell me there is a lot bigger picture here.

I might have already written about a rumor circulating for several years now, that many eastern European

Guest
Jano
July 23, 2012 6:48 pm

Wow what a story, I’m simply speculating but something is damn not right here… This is better then a CSI episode, and since there is actualy a fair amount of money involve my instincts tell me there is a lot bigger picture here.

I might have already written about a rumor circulating for several years now, that many eastern European hard right parties are actually financially backed by the Russian secret service and if you add to this Jobbik’s obvious moskovite tendencies (of course officially it’s just because they serve as an antithesis of the jewish west), I’m getting more and more convinced that there must be some truth to this.

Guest
An
July 23, 2012 7:13 pm

Eva, Corvinus (Kozgaz) was called Budapest University of Economics for a while (before it was named to Corvinus in 2004). The University of of Horticulture and Food Industry was integrated with Kozgaz (then Budapest University of Economics) in 2003 and they do have a program in Viticulture and Oenology. Now, if Varga had left the country in 1988, I don’t know how he could have gotten a degree from “Budapest University”. In 1988 the University of Horticulture and Food Industry was a separate university, and was called as such (and Kozgaz was then called Marx Karoly University of Economics).

Anyway if he has such a degree, why it is not in his Hungarian bio?

Guest
Petofi1
July 23, 2012 7:45 pm

Jano :
Wow what a story, I’m simply speculating but something is damn not right here… This is better then a CSI episode, and since there is actualy a fair amount of money involve my instincts tell me there is a lot bigger picture here.
I might have already written about a rumor circulating for several years now, that many eastern European hard right parties are actually financially backed by the Russian secret service and if you add to this Jobbik’s obvious moskovite tendencies (of course officially it’s just because they serve as an antithesis of the jewish west), I’m getting more and more convinced that there must be some truth to this.

And now it seems to make some sense when a Jobbik leader calls for Hungary to ‘turn
to the East’….

Guest
July 23, 2012 9:00 pm

Not exactly the story Dr Balogh wrote: “A native of Hungary, Bela graduated from the University of Horticulture and Food Sciences of Budapest, one of the oldest universities offering enology and fermentation sciences curricula in Europe, with a Master in Enology in 1988. Upon graduation he married his university sweetheart Judit then together they climbed over the Iron Curtain. As Bela has said, “We love our home, but we could not live in that system.” They moved to Healdsburg, CA where he worked for Chateau Souverain, one of the most prestigious wineries in Sonoma County, as Assistant Winemaker for three years. There he learned the winemaking ins and outs of California giving him great insight and ample opportunities to see both worlds, the old and the new. While at Chateau Soverain he was invited and eventually lured to Niagara Falls, Ontario, by Brights Wines, the largest winery in Canada. There he directed the operations of a three million case winery with products ranging from Champagnes, Ports and Sherries, to Premium and Dessert wines. He learned in his own words “the full scope of products.” While it was an excellent experience and priceless schooling Bela wanted to focus on what he… Read more »

Member
July 23, 2012 9:55 pm

This is CloudFlare’s abuse report site where you can file a complaint on kuruc.info:

https://www.cloudflare.com/abuse/

Now this “blood money” on the demonstrators is clearly an implied call for violence and is a blatant violation of CloudFlare’s abuse policy.

This is the url with the “offer” on the kuruc.info:

http://kuruc.info/r/2/98812

Please submit a report to them. Let’s see what happens when the number of complaints increases.

Just a little technical mumbo-jumbo about CloudFlare. They are not a hosting company. Their servers are just sitting between your browser and the kuruc.info servers and provide caching and protection from cyber attacks. They also hide the actual addresses of the physical servers and that makes it attractive to the dregs of the world like the kuruc.info guys.

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 10:54 pm

Better than CSI indeed. Reading the comments here however, it appears the self-appointed investigators dig themselves ever deeper into the murky details of the unknown abyss. Halloween is just around the corner … trick or treat!

Guest
gdfxx
July 23, 2012 10:58 pm

Kovach: “Not exactly the story Dr Balogh wrote”

See: http://www.winelegacy.com/ItemDetail.aspx?Item_ID=942

“The head winemaker, Bela Varga brings a lot of experience to the winery.

Varga graduated from the University of Budapest with a master’s degree in Enology and Viticulture in 1988. He scaled barbed wire fences to escape his native Hungary before the Iron Curtain came down. He ended up in Canada where he worked for Vincor and later moved to the States where he worked in Washington and California.”

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:06 pm

An.
He has a Master’s Degree in Oenology from the University of Horticulture and Food Industry. Didn’t fool the Americans, they’re not as dumb as you are and he’s not a liar either. It just proves how unschooled you are in this particular department. You cannot become a reputable Winemaker in the US, Canada or any prestigious wine producing country for that matter, without minimum a Bachelor’s Degree. Sorry to disappoint….

Member
July 23, 2012 11:08 pm

b.v :
Better than CSI indeed. Reading the comments here however, it appears the self-appointed investigators dig themselves ever deeper into the murky details of the unknown abyss. Halloween is just around the corner … trick or treat!

b.v. ? Bad joke.

Varga should be better prepared with a trick because it’s open season on him. If he lied to the INS he will be deported. Guaranteed.

Member
July 23, 2012 11:18 pm

WHat iron curtain he scaled? bahaha What a lier, right there. Who was that from the Fidesz (maybe Kover), who also lied about the difficulties to get a passport and that he had to kiss up to get one? Everyone who lived in Hungary in 1988 knows that getting a passport was not difficult. Getting into Austria was like crossing from Pest to Buda. It seems that the group of the politically inclined who support the far right in Hungary is made up from notorious liers.

Member
July 23, 2012 11:24 pm

gdfxx :
Kovach: “Not exactly the story Dr Balogh wrote”
See: http://www.winelegacy.com/ItemDetail.aspx?Item_ID=942
“The head winemaker, Bela Varga brings a lot of experience to the winery.

Yuck! A 12 dollar wine. That’s the best this guy could cook up? Does it come in a box? What a joke.

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:25 pm

The writer of the article tragically did another poor fact-finding job on the musical aspect of the tale. He/she’d been unable to find Hungary’s most famed jazz program operated at the jazz department of the Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest since the 70’s, with teachers like Gyula Babos, Szakcsi Lakatos Bela etc….hmmm…not very professional….

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:27 pm

Mutt, how do you know he ever dealt with the INS? By the way it’s no longer…

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:33 pm

Some 1, well it seems you didn’t live in Hungary in 1988, otherwise you wouldn’t propagate such baloney. In 1988, they were still shooting at you, if you wanted to cross my friend.

Member
July 23, 2012 11:41 pm

b.v :
Some 1, well it seems you didn’t live in Hungary in 1988, otherwise you wouldn’t propagate such baloney. In 1988, they were still shooting at you, if you wanted to cross my friend.

This is interesting. You are both right. If you were a convict or could not get a passport, then yes, it was still difficult to “cross”. But it was ridiculously easy to get a passport in 88. Do you know anything about Varga? Why didn’t he just get a passport?

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:45 pm

Ms, Balogh, Also what makes you think that the IRS has any jurisdiction over this individual’s financials? Why do you surmise that he even has to file a tax return? Well..well..this is turning into a full-scale brain-scratcher doesn’t it?

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:50 pm

Mutt, I may. As far as passports, some people could not obtain them for political reasons. He may not have been granted one, because of anti-communist activities in his university years.

Member
July 23, 2012 11:50 pm

Dear State Department employees, who are reading this blog. Can you please initiate a background check on Varga? There is a chance that he lied on his immigration papers. Actually he very well can be an implant of a foreign secret service. Plus he’s running a fascist web site.

Guest
b.v
July 23, 2012 11:56 pm

Mutt, for crying out loud, how do you know that he’s even an American and immigrated to the US?

Guest
b.v
July 24, 2012 12:00 am

Mutt, also, running a “fascist” website is not illegal in the US. You should know that. Punch in fascist, neonazi websites and you can browse to your heart’s desire. C’mon now!

Guest
gdfxx
July 24, 2012 12:02 am

b.v :
Mutt, for crying out loud, how do you know that he’s even an American and immigrated to the US?

He is working in the U.S.A., isn’t he?

Guest
b.v
July 24, 2012 12:09 am

gdfxx, Now how should I know that? Possible, considering how many millions live and work in the US both legally and illegally. but what makes you think he’s in the US? All of you commenting on Ms. balogh’s article should pose these questions to yourselves before jumping into premature conclusions.

Guest
b.v
July 24, 2012 12:20 am

gdfxx, Here’s the very first question you all should ask yourselves. Does he exist at all/ Is that his real name at all? Thanks to Ms. Balogh’s exhausting policework, you all assume. and you know the saying. Assume makes an a.. out of you and me..

Guest
Sgemes
July 24, 2012 2:26 am
Guest
July 24, 2012 2:52 am

Thanks for the reference Eva, but I disagree on this one: “But then I compared the two pictures, one given on a site that devoted considerable energy to uncovering the editors of kuruc.info” My hunch is that there are indeed two Bela Vargas, and kurucwanted, the site exposing him as domain owner of kuruc.info, got the identity mixed up and published an older pic of the Mór one. I think I found the Californian one on Facebook, with some evidence to support it – a regular commentator of kuruc.info, links it a lot on FB, on July 17th he asked for information on the flash mob participants on Facebook, to be sent to a certain email address, and some days later one of the participants received threatening mails from this address (“(you) succeeded to evoke the wrath of one of the most influential nationalist websites on the planet, the fearsome kuruc.info. (…) interested individuals will find you, if not tomorrow, the day after, it’s just a matter of time. (…) A friendly advice….get life insurance.” Details and pic in my post. http://pusztaranger.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/3326/ To support my point, here a FB-Dialogue between journalist Tamás Bodoky and Californian Bela Varga from November 2011,… Read more »

Guest
Lutra lutra
July 24, 2012 4:48 am

As far as I can see, the balance of probability is that this story is pretty much spot-on. What’s still behind the curtain is how much of this the Hungarian (if not the American) authorities already knew for years but chose to do nothing.

However, it’s now in Orbán’s political interest to act. It suggests that Fidesz’ commitment to fighting antisemitism isn’t just talk, it goes one step towards redeeming his party in Israel’s eyes and it discredits Jobbik’s credentials as the “clean hands” party. Win, win, win.

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