Lőrinc Mészáros, friend of Viktor Orbán, is a financial genius

I have collected an enormous database on Hungarian politics in the last few years, and my folder on Lőrinc Mészáros–businessman, mayor of Felcsút, and CEO of the Ferenc Puskás Academy–is bulging with articles. The very first one I kept was “Scandal in Felcsút,” which reported that Mészáros and his extended family had received more than 600 hectares of land in the village of Kajászó, 18 km from Felcsút, while none of the locals received even one cm².

Felcsút has come to symbolize everything that is rotten in Orbanistan. It is a typical Hungarian village with a population of about 3,000 where Hungary’s prime minister, who grew up there, first established a football academy because after all this is his hobby and then spent a great deal of money that should have gone into the general budget on a luxurious football stadium with a seating capacity of 3,500 right next door to his weekend house. As for Mészáros, the media became aware of his existence and importance only in the fall of 2010 when, as Orbán’s candidate for mayor of the village, he lost by a few votes against an independent candidate. The lord of Felcsút, Viktor Orbán, couldn’t live with such a situation, so his “friends” on the town council with the assistance of an amendment to the town’s electoral law disqualified Mészáros’s opponent. The election had to be repeated, and naturally Mészáros won.

Why is Lőrinc Mészáros so important to Viktor Orbán? This is what the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) wanted to know this summer. Specifically, Zsolt Gréczy, the spokesman of the party, was interested in finding out how much of Mészáros’s by now fabulous wealth is his and how much of it actually belongs to Viktor Orbán. This is a legitimate question to which not only DK would like to have an answer. By now, I’m pretty certain that almost everybody who follows the news and is familiar with Lőrinc Mészáros’s name is convinced that the former pipe fitter is the prime minister’s front man or, in Hungarian/German, stróman/Strohmann. From owning a one-man car repair shop to being a billionaire in three years is no mean feat. Mészáros’s explanation is simple enough: he must attribute his financial success “to God, to luck, and to Viktor Orbán.” I think we can discard God from the equation and focus instead on the role of Viktor Orbán.

Mészáros and his wife established a company called Mészáros és Mészáros (M & M) in 2001, which was barely profitable until in 2011 government orders started pouring in. In 2010 the company grossed 900 million forints; by 2013 the dividends the couple received from their company totaled 1,266 billion forints. The business was flourishing: every year M & M doubled its revenues. In 2013 they took in 10 billion forints.

M & M is a construction business and Mészáros, the CEO of the Puskás Academy, couldn’t find a better company to build the new Pancho Stadium in Felcsút than–you guessed it–M & M. Such an arrangement couldn’t have been made without the blessing of Viktor Orbán, the true “owner” of that football academy as well as the stadium. After all, it was his foundation with his meager contribution of 100,000 forints more than a decade ago that created the whole complex in his childhood village.

The 600 hectares the Mészároses received–because the talented Mr. Mészáros is not only a politician, CEO of a soccer academy, and head of a construction company but a farmer as well–cost them nothing. Larger tracts of land owned by the state were leased to people with Fidesz connections. These parcels will most likely end up as the lessees’ very own after twenty years. In addition, the European Union farm subsidies afford the lessees a handsome yearly income. The extended Mészáros family was also the beneficiary of several tobacco concessions. Mészáros’s brother opened five tobacco shops in key locations: in District II in Budapest as well as in Szeged and Kecskemét.

In February of this year we learned about a 7.4 million forint government subsidy that Mészáros had received in 2013 for his pig farm. HVG claimed to know that Mészáros already had 1,000 pigs and that in fact he was selling pork to supermarket chains. The problem was that nary a single Mészáros pig could be found anywhere. The Agricultural Ministry normally gives farmers 2,150 forints per pig, which in Mészáros’s case would have assumed an animal farm of about 3,400 pigs. Needless to say, there were a lot of jokes about the lost pigs in the Hungarian media. Well, a month ago Mészáros’s mangalica farm was officially opened and the ribbon cut in Viktor Orbán’s presence. I have to assume that Mészáros received the 7.4 million forints before he had even one pig. Moreover, the farm he opened is capable of housing only 200 pigs. Something is very wrong here. As it usually is when it comes to Mészáros’s affairs.

Meszaros2

Lőrinc Mészáros’s dividends in billions

Atlatszo.hu tried its best to find out the details of Mészáros’s finances. But although he as an elected official has to make a yearly financial statement which is public, the mayor of Felcsút refused to allow the investigative journalist Katalin Erdélyi to take a look at it. Eventually, however, Mészáros was forced to oblige. According to his statement, he had 400 million in the bank and 20 million in cash, he received 943 million in dividends from his various companies, and he owned a 2008 Audi 5. Details of his real estate holdings and yearly income can be seen on 444.hu.

A few days later, however, several internet sites reported that a few items were omitted from Mészáros’s financial statement. For example, a luxury villa with a spectacular view in Tihany. But that was  nothing in comparison to the discovery by RTL Klub that Mészáros “forgot” to mention 1.27 billion forints worth of dividends in his latest financial statement. He himself phoned RTL Klub to “clarify” the situation.

Recall Bálint Magyar’s characterization of a “stróman” as someone who, instead of reinvesting his profits in his company, takes out enormous sums of money in the form of dividends. In such a case the real business of the company is money laundering.

Finally, during today’s demonstration Mészáros’s lost billions were held up as a symbol of Viktor Orbán’s regime. László Szily, the blogger of cink.hu, wrote an article a few days ago with the title “Let’s erect a statue to the lost one billion of Lőrinc Mészáros!” He began his piece with the following words: “The government hasn’t fallen yet and Viktor Orbán has not escaped yet in a second-class railroad carriage to Switzerland. But the regime has been seriously weakened and the Lőrinc Mészároses who have lost all sense of reality will be responsible if one day this regime is swept away by revolution.”

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Member

And 200 million of those dividends landed on Orban’s Swiss accounts.

One thing I really would like to see is an investigation of Aniko Levai’s finances (Orban’s wife). She owns countless real estate, 30 something, if I’m not mistaken, enormous amount of land, and God knows what else. Reportedly her last financial statement was in 2010. I always suspected that the lady of the house plays a very important role in the Orban Enterprises.

I think they already have stuffed their pockets. You can expect a slew of unfortunate political decisions from now on, like making the BP beltway a toll road. Then guess what? They will lose the elections. Hello 1989. Deja Vu all over again.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh: M & M is a construction business and Mészáros, the CEO of the Puskás Academy, couldn’t find a better company to build the new Pancho Stadium in Felcsút than–you guessed it–M & M. Such an arrangement couldn’t have been made without …

How is that even possible?

Paul
Guest

The worrying thing about all this (from Hungary’s point of view, not just Fidesz/Orbán’s) is not just the corruption, or even its scale, but the fact that they make no real attempt to hide it.

I am no historian, but I would bet that the aspect of corruption that proceeds most regime collapses is not the scale of it, but the sheer arrogance of not trying even to hide it.

“We are not just corrupt, but we can be openly corrupt, because there is nothing you can do about it.”

Maybe we’ll see about that.

Member

I just cannot wait for all Fidesz troopers to come on the blog and explain this.

Nagy Pista
Guest

I’m sorry, but this reminds me to this old – maybe Hofi Géza? – joke from the seventies;

Two collective farm members (TSZ tag) are talking about their machine yard supervisors (gépudvar vezető) in the bar (kocsma) over a few glasses of spritzer (kisfröcs). One of the member tells the other how their yard supervisor has stolen everything to rebuilt his personal vehicle; tires, battery, engine parts, oil, gasoline, paint. So the other asks him, that how come the collective doesn’t get rid of him?

“For god sake, why would we do that?” replies the first one surprised. “This one is stolen enough, If we get rid of him, the new one has to start sealing everything again from the beginning!”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

bubi
Guest

A few days I read an article on portfolio.hu about the buying of the Villa for 11.@ million euros by a state owned bank and that this amazing building which I’ve visited a couple of times will supposedly serve for educational purposes. Unfortunately no-one seems to have any interest in writing more about this strange affair. Personally I’d be very curious to find out more about it.

Peter
Guest

@Nagy Pista: except that in our case the supervisor is stealing everything not only from the collective yard, but from the farm members’ private garages too.

“… but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” (Macchiavelli)

Richard Carter
Guest

This is a request for a post. I’d be fascinated to learn about the demographics of FIDESZ supporters. Things like where they live, education, what kinds of work they do, religion, etc. I see that the labor unions are joining the protests, but I really don’t know if the unions are/were a source of FIDESZ support.

I also enjoyed this piece from the Budapest Telegraph. I recommend it.

http://www.budapesttelegraph.com/news/817/scholar_rebukes_political_opponents_for_not_trying_to_learn_more_about_each_other

Zsolt
Guest

Being totally honest…
If I were the Primeminister of Country X; I would do the same. And if someone is saying they would not help to “old buddies”; -imho- just a liar. This is a natural of being human. I am sure this is true all around the globe.

The important difference between Orbán and a lot of us who does or would this do, is knowing the limit.
In Hungary there is no such boundaries anymore.
Mészáros is just “one”, among Közgép ( however seems he friendship is over ), Gorzsai companies, just the bigger…

Zsolt
Guest
Richard Carter: I believe this is less a question of demography but the life here. My age -32- still but also the older people were trained in Hungary not to being different then others. Everyone of us, let’s say over 30 are trained that the Party takes care on you. They help you to get educated (up to a certain level), get medical help, etc… just like the “Big Brother”. Remember, before 1990 we really had a “Big Brother”, from / through (depends on when) from Russia. So, the supporters of FIDESZ are coming from two major contingent. a) they see, and love what FIDESZ is doing, following Viktor to form “Oceania” – if I might kept this picture b) During the past years the leaders of MSZP and others were not really good as a leader. FIDESZ and their communication created equitation between “Old Socialist” who destroyed the country, and “new socialist” (MSZP) who have a lot of olds between their lines. As a consequence; if you support MSZP, you do support the old socialist; who destroyed the country; so you destroy the country. This is in the daily “logic” of communication. This also implies the fact that many… Read more »
buddy
Guest
@Zsolt So your argument seems to be: “a little bit of stealing/cheating/corruption is ok (because hey, it happens everywhere), but a lot of it is wrong.” Sorry but I couldn’t disagree with you more. This statement – “If I were the Primeminister of Country X; I would do the same. And if someone is saying they would not help to “old buddies”; -imho- just a liar. This is a natural of being human. I am sure this is true all around the globe.” I realize that just about everyone in Hungary believes that or some version of it, but I’m afraid they’re all wrong, because this is in fact the very root of the problem. There is widespread tolerance for all forms of cheating and stealing in Hungary because of this belief, and those in power take advantage of that. From this belief, it is actually a very small step from stealing a small amount to stealing a large amount. It’s this very belief that needs to be attacked and eradicated – not corruption itself, mind you, but the widespread belief that “just a small amount” is acceptable – for things to change in Hungary. But I don’t see this… Read more »
hazy
Guest

Anybody who met with Americans (I guess except for those who were not a mission to plant info with Americans) is now considered to be a traitor. Both the Navracsics people (yes, those people brought in by the “moderate” Navracsics) and the Szijjarto people (of course) at the Foreign Ministry are pro-Russia hard liners who hate Americans.

That’s the current situation.

http://index.hu/belfold/2014/12/15/mi_van_a_kulugyben/

sztív
Guest

therein lies the rub.
people who believe that it’s “ok” to steal a little bit are in the majority in Hungary.
so when election time comes around nobody stands on an honesty / trustworthy / integrity ticket as this isn’t a vote winner.
the whole cycle is starting again.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Zsolt: Being totally honest…
If I were the Primeminister of Country X; I would do the same. And if someone is saying they would not help to “old buddies”; -imho- just a liar. This is a natural of being human. I am sure this is true all around the globe.

I agree: abusing power is a natural tendency among us. However, limiting the abuses, because they harm the survival of a community larger than one individual’s social network, is also in the human nature. That’s often what the law is about …

I know nothing about Hungarian laws regarding conflict of interest. Nevertheless I’m pretty sure that in many EU countries, the head of a stadium operator (or any other large infrastructure) who ventured to award the construction contracts for that infrastructure to his own company would be in jail.

Guest

@Zsolt:

maybe this is the “Hungarian sickness” – corruption is ok, if there ain’t too much of it …

Of course we’ve seen it in Italy: Mafia and Berlusconi and to a certain extent everywhere – but everywhere people went to jail for this or lost their job (like our German president Wulff), so it’s not accepted at all!

And what’s going on right now – family members getting rich on land deals and tobacco shops etc, is really unbelievable!

PS:

Even in China there now is a kind of fight against corruption – so which countries remain?

African states of course (one of my brothers in law works there – the stories he tells …), Russia and Hungary …

mudi
Guest

@wolfi

Believe me, Hungary’s official corruption is at Nigerian or Angolan levels.

Hungary is currently a kleptocracy.

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

kleptocracy, fascist mutation, postcommunist maffiastate

buddy
Guest

Orbán gave a mostly useless interview to Bloomberg that sounded like his usual Friday radio talk, but in English. The last few paragraphs, however, really make one’s hair stand on end.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-15/hungary-on-path-to-shed-junk-grade-and-shield-forint-orban-says.html

Guest

Re Orbán’s use of the Bumblebee argument in the Bloomberg interview …
From rationalwiki:
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bumblebee_argument
The “bumblebee argument”, in pseudoscience, states that the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee can’t fly, as it does not have the required capacity (in terms of wing area or flapping speed). Consequently, therefore, science can be shown to be in error, providing a loophole for pseudoscientific “explanations”. Arguments like these are occasionally used by creationists to claim that it’s impossible for bees to be a product of evolution, though they’re quite common in more general anti-science circles that like to cry “look at science, it knows nothing!” Unfortunately (for the pseudoscientists), the laws of physics do not in any way forbid bumblebee flight; there are no papers that deny bumblebee flight, and no scientist has done so in a lecture, except, perhaps, ironically.

Istvan
Guest

Honestly there are some pretty worldly people on this blog, it seems Hungary’s systemic corruption is similar to Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Mexico, and many other nations including many African nations as posters have already noted. Here in the USA the corruption on the political level in poor African American communities is legendary. I have a hard time accepting the argument of Hungarian exceptionalism as it relates to corruption. But I am fascinated so many Hungarians are attracted to this theory.

Pepe
Guest

Peter Szijjarto had a lovely chat today with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister via phone. The Hungarian counterparty initiated the call.

According to the reports, they exchanged views on bilateral issues and current events.

http://444.hu/2014/12/15/szijjarto-felhivta-az-orosz-kulugyminiszter/

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@wolfi, re: the bumblebee parable. Sounds like a case of ‘straw man fallacy’. Seems only natural…

googly
Guest
If you look at the Transparency International website and find the Corruption Perceptions Index, you will see that Hungary is perceived to not be as corrupt as many of the countries in the region. Of course, perceptions often lag reality, but notice that the countries that are perceived to not be very corrupt are also the ones (mostly) which are wealthier. There is some question as to causation, but it’s pretty clear that in order to be wealthy (without exporting large amounts of oil or being an offshore-banking center), it is a good idea to root out corruption. The first step is to convince the majority of people in Hungary of this, since nothing will succeed if the majority of people tolerate corruption on any level. Under communism, and probably today as well, cheating in school was considered to be the norm, and there was no moral problem with it among the student body. It was considered by many to be part of resisting the dictatorship, and only fools would not cheat, since they put themselves at a disadvantage. In fact, students would cooperate with one another in cheating. I don’t know if this was the situation before communism, but… Read more »
googly
Guest

Orbán’s Bloomberg interview:

” It can’t be otherwise since a large share of the poor, hundreds of thousands, lived on welfare. And welfare is less than 50 percent of the public works employment wages that we pay today.”

Unless, of course, all that happened was that fewer poor people get state monetary support, but that doesn’t mean that they are no longer poor. Changing the definition of poverty doesn’t actually do anything about the numbers of poor people, it just hides the reality of poverty in Hungary.

“So I can only nod that when I move my offices out of parliament and into a (former) monastery it will mean the strengthening of checks and balances.”

That is some interesting logic.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry has asked Mr. Goodfriend to come for a talk to Bem place.
The American Under Secretary has taken a step against the sovereignity of the Maffiastate.
She said something about the corruption of the Orbán led “family”.
When will they put Orban and his ilk on the Watchlist?

Texts & Transcripts

State’s Sewall on New Frontiers in Addressing Corruption
09 December 2014

U.S. Department of State
Remarks by Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Washington, D.C.
December 9, 2014

New Frontiers in Understanding and Addressing Corruption
International Anti-Corruption Day

Read more: http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2014/12/20141210311876.html#ixzz3M0FUWHZn

…We enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which since 2009 has generated around $3 billion in penalties and convictions against more than 50 individuals, including high-level executives. At the State Department, we use our visa sanction authority in a nonpolitical manner to deny entry to corrupt leaders. Recently, we denied visas to six Hungarian officials and their cronies due to their corruption. This action also bolstered public concern, and on November 9th, the streets of Budapest filled with 10,000 protesters who called for the resignation of corrupt public officials…

Read more: http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2014/12/20141210311876.html#ixzz3M0F5kSQR

http://444.hu/2014/12/15/behivta-a-kulugyminiszterium-goodfriendet/

galgamácsa
Guest

@googly

Or TI’s index just doesn’t work as well as TI wants it to work.

Or “corruption”, anyway hard to define, cannot even be measured meaningfully.

It doesn’t matter how Hungary compares to Bulgaria or Poland, the fact is that Hungary is a full-blown kleptocracy.

A kleptocracy complete with the insane government projects of African dictators (who of course regularly hobnobbed with Western-European or American top politicians).

I mean has anybody been to János kórház (hospital) lately? Even Kútvölgyi? Or László? The situation is third world, Afghanistan circa the 1970’s kind of quality. Meanwhile Orban is seriously planning Hungary’s bid for both the football world championship (he will probably start with the European championship) and also the Olympics, I shit you not.

The EU will never admit this of course, as it is fighting for its own survival.

In fact, there is not one single Hungarian government policy or governmental state administrative system that would work as efficiently and properly — as far as creating the back-up paperwork OLAF can review until the end of time, destroying evidence, managing law enforcement etc. — as state-managed corruption.

Member

Zsolt
December 15, 2014 at 4:16 am
Being totally honest…
If I were the Primeminister of Country X; I would do the same. And if someone is saying they would not help to “old buddies”; -imho- just a liar. This is a natural of being human. I am sure this is true all around the globe.

]

Well, that sums up the Hungarian attitude towards honesty in one single comment. So someone who says that s/he would not cheat, lie, and abuse power are all liars? THere is some twisted logic there Zsolt. I think the problem with Hungary is exactly the same on the right as on the left, and that is the extremism. Anyone who does not support the idea of someone that must be the enemy. What differentiates liberal thinkers from the Orbans when they come out with such flippant statements? Anyone who does not lie is a liar. It is beyond comprehension. Thank goodness in your book I am a liar. Although we would never know as I do not think I have any chance to become a Prime minister of any country, maybe just because I do not lie.

Zsolt
Guest

@ buddy:
Well, yes ( as an answer ). It would be -at least for me- utopia to say I would not help to old ‘buddies’, sorry :).
To ask X million USD for a license is corruption. To hire someone with real knowledge and experience to a position where he did not applied but a friend recommended is still corruption.
I just want to show the two ends of corruption… certainly, it would be just good to get rid of all kind but, well, this is what we can not really achieve. Even not short term.

Zsolt
Guest
@Some1: Well, yes. divide et impera. Who is against the drug-tests -> He is using drugs and tries to collapse the NER. Demonstration today for 5 points of the trade-union -> Lobby of the tobacco industry against our economical system. And the top and one of the first: Demonstration front of the Opera House in Budapest with approx. 3000 people ( or less, or more I can not recall anymore ) -> In the “state owned / operated TV” the correspondent stand in a small street next to the Opera House and was saying here? no…. here I really can not see anyone. If all the broadcasts are saying the same on the same way as I wrote above for already 4+ years… this is what you get. This is a kind of MiniTrue. “What differentiates liberal thinkers from the Orbans when they come out with such flippant statements? Anyone who does not lie is a liar.” Correct: If you lie -> then you are a liar but you can work for the state, of you state you do not lie, you do. So you should have to prove you do not do. Remember how the “story” was started in… Read more »
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