Fidesz is working on a new “surveillance” scandal. This is not the first time that Fidesz claims that its politicians have been spied on. In 1998, a couple of months after the formation of the first Orbán government, Viktor Orbán made a dramatic announcement in parliament: MSZP while in power ordered national security officials to spy on Fidesz politicians. After months of investigation it turned out to be a hoax. Something similar is under way at the moment. This time the targets are György Szilvásy, former minister without portfolio in charge of national security, and the former head of the National Security Office Sándor Laborc.
Szilvásy has been under attack for a number of years, starting with his role in the UD Zrt. affair. For details on this very complicated story you should read some of my earlier posts. Szilvásy and his co-defendants were found not guilty of the charges a few months ago, but the prosecutors appealed the case. So, Szilvásy and the other defendants are back in court.
Szilvásy was also accused of being involved, along with Sándor Laborc, in “spying for Russia.” As far as I know, this case is still on the docket.
And now here is this new “case.” Thus, one must come to the conclusion that for one reason or other high-ranking Fidesz politicians would dearly love to see Szilvásy in jail. The reason seems pretty obvious to me. Fidesz bigwigs suspect that György Szilvásy and Sándor Laborc know more about them than is desirable from their point of view. And I’m sure that they do. For the time being their lips are sealed because, after all, these pieces of information are considered to be state secrets.
A couple of days ago Heti Válasz published an article claiming that there is proof that Tamás Portik, a businessman whose wealth originally came from questionable sources but who lately has been involved only in legitimate businesses, was instructed by Laborc to spy on Fidesz politicians. The paper claimed that an audio recording of the conversation exists in the archives of the National Security Office, now called Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal (AVH). (What an unfortunate name. Its abbreviation is the same as that of the infamous Államvédelmi Hatóság of the Rákosi period.) The Heti Válasz article was entitled “Szilvásy by night” because Portik’s business activities centered around night clubs and restaurants.
Magyar Nemzet elaborated on the case. It was Szilvásy who ordered Laborc to get in touch with Portik. Portik was instructed to collect and create information against the leaders of Fidesz. Portik in exchange wanted to remove those police officers whom the businessman found objectionable because they interfered with his illegal activities. The specific targets were Lajos Kósa, Antal Rogán, and János Lázár. László Kövér and Viktor Orbán were not mentioned.
Both Laborc and Szilvásy deny the charges and plan to sue Heti Válasz and Magyar Nemzet. Laborc called attention to the absurdity of the charge because the audio recording was done at his insistence by an officer of the National Security Office. It would be mighty strange to have instructed Portik to commit illegal acts under these circumstances. According to Szilvásy, the whole story as told by the two pro-government papers is a pack of lies. It is true, says Szilvásy, that he asked Laborc to get in touch with Portik because he was informed that Portik apparently had information on Hungarian organized crime and wanted to get in touch with someone from the National Security Office. Laborc after talking to Portik decided not to follow up because the information Portik provided was vague and not well founded.
Szilvásy floated the possibility that this latest “surveillance” affair is part of Fidesz in-fighting. He wondered why these three politicians’ names were mentioned and continued: “the possibility cannot be excluded that certain Fidesz leaders think that we found out something about these three that they can use in their internal struggles. Of course, it is also possible that they are trying another tact since all their other trumped-up charges have failed.”
Heti Válasz immediately came out with an opinion piece by András Stumpf who is supposed to be one of the more moderate members of the paper’s staff. Well, this time he went over the top. The title was “It will be the student canteen too!” At first the title was incomprehensible to me until I found out that one of the two meetings between the NBH officials and Portik took place in a restaurant called “Menza” on Ferenc Liszt Square. Stumpf makes this Menza sound like a Michelin four-star restaurant, but one can have a very nice meal there for under 1,000 forints. (Today’s menu is “Hungarian bean soup” and “layered crepes” which sounds pretty good to me.)
Stump continued his rant by stating that “the Zsolt Bayer in me” is certain that Szilvásy and Laborc are “filth, traitors, mafiosos, garbage, prolik.” This last word is the abbreviation of proletárok, i.e. low-class people. And the Menza? He hopes that these two men will spend the rest of their lives in jail where there is a canteen too. Admittedly, the food there will not be as good as at Menza but “surely one can get used to it.” He will be glad to pay the cost of their food in jail.
As far as Stump is concerned, Bayer should have refrained from writing about Gypsy crime on January 5. If he had just waited a couple of weeks he could have written an article in very much the same vein but with more justification about the Szilvásy-Laborc case. Today’s opposition leaders “are so sensitive when they feel that democracy is being threatened” from the right or when “they demand that Viktor Orbán distance himself from Zsolt Bayer,” but they are less critical of their own behavior. Yes, if local Fidesz politicians cheated in Kiskunfélegyháza–as was reported a couple of days ago–they should be punished. “But this case is much more weighty. This story is so weighty that it immediately drags Hungarian democracy to the very bottom of public life.” Stumpf makes these accusations without actually knowing what is on the tape.
And if that weren’t enough, Stumpf fired a last volley, this time at Ferenc Gyurcsány who like others at the demonstration in front of Fidesz headquarters demanded Bayer’s removal from Fidesz and carried a sign saying “I’m a Gypsy.” So, wrote Stumpf: “No, Ferenc, you are not. I’m not either but I object in the name of all Gypsies. They have enough problems; they really shouldn’t have to apologize for you as well.”
Yet another Zsolt Bayer. They are multiplying.