The good name of Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior

Two days ago a lengthy interview appeared in Magyar Nemzet with Sándor Pintér, Viktor Orbán’s “perpetual” minister of the interior. He was named interior minister in 1998, in 2010, and in 2014. Why is Sándor Pintér so indispensable to Viktor Orbán? It’s become almost a commonplace in Hungary to say that “if Viktor Orbán could relieve Sándor Pintér he wouldn’t have appointed him in the first place.” I guess one doesn’t need too fertile an imagination to guess what these wagging tongues have in mind.

Pintér’s past is full of question marks. In October 2013 I wrote a post on Pintér, “Possible criminal activities of some Hungarian politicians?” In it I gave a fairly detailed description of Pintér’s ties to members of the Budapest underworld while he was chief of the Hungarian national police force. In fact, he might have been involved in the so-called “mafia war” that began in 1996 with the murder of a crime family member and continued a few days later with the murder of the driver of his race horses on the Budapest trotting course. There is at least one witness who claimed that Pintér as police chief appeared at the murder scene and removed the murder weapon. The two murderers got off scot-free. Apparently, they were awfully pleased when they saw “Sanyi bácsi” (Uncle Sanyi) on the scene.

Pintér was also involved with two other Hungarian underworld characters in the 1990s–Dietmar Clodo, a German, and the Ukrainian Semion Mogilevich, “Szeva bácsi” to his friends, who now lives in Moscow. Clodo was not so lucky. He was convicted in Hungary and allowed to serve his prison term in Germany. He was released in 2011. Two years later he gave an explosive interview to Antónia Rádai, a reporter for HVG, which was inexplicably overlooked by the rest of the Hungarian media. Let me quote a passage from that post of mine on Pintér:

Semion Mogilevich, whom Clodo described as his friend, asked a favor from Clodo. Mogilevich gave him a Hungarian politician’s telephone number. Clodo was instructed to phone the number and invite the Hungarian politician to his house and hand him a brief case supplied by Mogilevich. Clodo had to insist that the politician open the briefcase on the spot because in Clodo’s study behind the books was a hidden camera which recorded the exchange. There were one million deutschmarks in the briefcase. The exchange took place in 1994. At that time the name of the politician was not familiar to Clodo. “To me he was only one of the many corrupt characters to whom I had to hand similar packages in the middle of the 1990s.” In addition to this encounter there was another meeting with a politician from the same party. “The others were police officers.”

Dietmar Clodo told Antónia Rádai the name of the politician but HVG, after consulting with the paper’s lawyers, decided to withhold it.

Whoever the politician was cannot rest easy because that video might still be in the possession of Uncle Seva in Moscow.

Magyar Nemzet was planning an interview with Pintér on a wide range of questions, from the police’s handling of the demonstrations to the size of the public workforce. So, the reporter must have been quite surprised when during the discussion of the American ban on certain corrupt officials Pintér complained to him that he himself “had to endure several attempts at character assassination by foreign organizations that tried to associate [him] with certain events that have never taken place.” While Pintér was not willing to elaborate on the specifics, he added: “for example, recently the persons in question were planning to discredit [him] sometime in the near future but they were forced to give up their activities. Thus, the story is no longer of any interest.”

"By now no one even wants to ruin the reputation of Comrade Bástya?!"  "It is taken care of....

“By now no one even wants to ruin the reputation of Comrade Bástya?!” “It is taken care of…”

What was Pintér’s point in informing the public of his alleged harassment by foreign organizations that have been trying to blacken his good name? Given all the stories about Pintér’s past, the headline of Jenő Veress’s Népszava article on the topic was apt: “Who here has a good reputation?” Péter Németh, editor-in-chief of the same paper, in his editorial  wonders how Pintér could “force the foreign organizations not to commit character assassination.” How did he learn about such attempts, he asks. Whom does Pintér have in mind? Németh suspects that Pintér is alluding to the United States. Perhaps he fears or even knows that the Americans have something on him and thinks that it is better to forestall the impending scandal by telling the world of his innocence. However, if I may remind Pintér and his friends, that kind of tactic backfired when the government leaked information about the American investigation into Hungarian tax fraud. All the trouble started with that article in Századvég’s Napi Gazdaság. So it does not seem to be a good way of handling the dirty laundry.

—–
*The reference to “Comrade Bástya” in Gábor Pápai’s cartoon is to Béla Bacsó’s famous film, A tanú (1969).

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tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest

Perhaps the international situation is intensifying…

Nagy Pista
Guest

Mi ez?
Narancs
Narancs?
Az új magyar narancs. Kicsit sárgább, kicsit savanyúbb, de a miénk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4wjQrV5A1c

This conversation – and the whole movie – is so fitting for the party of Orange.. and for the country too

One might wonder if it is the people of that tiny country – because to me everything always feels the same, regardless of the political system – just going around, and around in a circle.

And I know i was told to too that it “mindig élen járt a sportban” and “mennyi Nobel díjast adott a világnak”. Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever…

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Dorothy
Guest

Great post, again.

HiBoM
Guest
I am a little confused by your quotation from the Radnai Antonia interview in HVG. I can well imagine people reading this and deducing you think the politician was Pintér himself. Clearly it could not have been as he was not a politician until 1994, and for once, it couldn’t have been Fidesz either … so perhaps you could clarify quite how this relates to Pinter (other than him as an aside that he also met police officers.) Pintér’s appointment in 1998 was a shock and the impression most of us had at the time is that he appointed himself! I don’t know what sort of hold he has over Fidesz, but the explosions outside Szajer and Torgyan’s houses in the 1998 election campaign were palpably staged and a friend of a friend who worked for TV2 at the time, and was sent to the scene of the Szajer explosion, maintains to this day that the police helped stage it. Another thing about Pintér that has always interested me is that by the end of his first term in 2002, his cabinet at the Interior Ministry was almost entirely composed of the board of his company in 1998! Oh, and… Read more »
Webber
Guest

@HiBOM – it was Pinter, who was working for the Min. of Defense in those days. In another recent interview in Germany, Clodo describe in detail his first meetings with Pinter, a business deal Pinter offered him (very corrupt), and why Pinter got angry with him (he refused the deal).

Webber
Guest

P.S. Pinter has been, formally or informally, in the interior min. or min. of def. for a very long time.

Webber
Guest
Webber
Guest

And some more details here, compiled back in 2011 – http://igazszo.blog.com/2011/05/06/pinter-sandor-nyilvanos-titkai/

HiBoM
Guest

The Nol article dates their first meeting as being in 1997, to Pintér clearly was not the figure in the paragraph Éva quotes in a way as to suggest (very likely inadvertently) it was…

HiBoM
Guest

Webber, are you saying Pintér was unofficial minister of the interior when Kuncze was official minister?

HiBoM
Guest

@Webber, sorry, I see you said “minister of defence” so my above point is invalid. But I’d be curious to know why you think so…

Webber
Guest

@HiBoM – I am saying no such thing – read it again. I said Pinter was working for ministries, not that he was a minister. Radai’s piece also does not say minister – just politician. But I’ve just re-read the entire interview with Clodo, and it’s quite possible that the politician in question who took the bribe wasn’t Pinter. Pinter, however, comes up elsewhere in the interview – where he is named – and in VERY interesting circumstances.

Webber
Guest

Also, more than a decade ago László Juszth edited a weekly magazine that was suddenly banned for revealing state secrets, and copies of the last issue were withdrawn from newsstands. Some copies of that last issue are still in private hands, of course. Two interesting stories were in that issue. The first was an article about the on-going secret police monitoring of (all) American citizens in Hungary – monitoring that citizens of other Western countries were not subject to. The second was about the murder of an otherwise unknown person, and strange things that happened in the investigation of that murder. Pinter appeared in that second article in rather odd circumstances.

Cat
Guest

Webber —

Was this strange case the one in which – allegedly – somebody was buried alive?

Webber
Guest

@Cat – No, no burial at all (if you have links to that, that too would be nice to see here).
It was a case of a body being found by two policemen lying on the side of a road, near Budapest, allegedly with Pinter standing nearby, and of the police report disappearing, except for a carbon copy nicely saved by one of the policemen who filed the report – passed on to the press, at which the (upstanding) policeman got in serious trouble.

Webber
Guest

Rádai is a very brave woman.

Béla
Guest

As they say in Hungarian: régen volt, igaz se volt.

More or less: “It was a long time ago and it wasn’t even true”.

Cat
Guest

It’s just a rumor I heard, but as far as I know it originated from a reliable source. I’m not as brave as Ms. Radi.

Kavé
Guest

Cat: you probably heard a rumor involving the story of Szlavy Bulcsu, the early 1990s mafia “King of the Balaton” who actually organized his criminal operation into a political party, the “Hungarian Republican party” (Magyar Republikánus Párt) in 1993. He was connected to a lot of the unsavory figures of the 1990s. He disappeared in 1997, only to be found buried in cement in a parking garage in Buda in 2005.

http://m.168ora.hu/itthon/garazsmenet-1348.html
http://magyarnarancs.hu/belpol/szlavy_bulcsu_elete_es_halala_garazsmenet-61877
http://444.hu/2014/05/14/het-ev-a-padloba-betonozott-szlavy-bulcsu-megoleseert/

buddy
Guest

This is a good time to re-ask a question I posed a while ago and never got an answer to: what kind of dirt does Pintér have on Fidesz that keeps him in power?

Member

@buddy: If anyone would have the answer outside the Fidesz,obviously you would of got your answer by now.

HiBoM
Guest

Buddy, as I hinted in my post, he will be aware of the fake bombings in 1998, and I imagine he will know about the many dodgy financial dealings. In his first term in office, he was involved in the Gripen affair where there was clearly a bribe taken … so I imagine both sides are now compromised. But he has more friends in organised crime which is why they continue to give him a wide bearth.

Incidentally, when he was made Interior Minister in 1998, certain people were describing him as a good choice because of his contacts with organised crime, meaning he could tackle it more efficiently. Rarely has Hungarian politics been that honest.

Webber
Guest

@buddy – In addition to his skill at making connections with Russians, and his enormous personal wealth, Pinter is good at arranging protests and violence. He delivered skinheads to whistle/boo down President Arpad Goncz on 23 Oct. 1992. That was done for MDF. When interviewed, the skinheads (mostly from Tátabánya) mentioned that they were brought to Budapest in police vans. All that was arranged by Pinter (documented nicely by an article in Beszélő). Pinter also has good connections with football clubs/hooligans. Who knows what else he has delivered? To this day, I haven’t read a decent explanation of what happened in front of the television building in 2006, when a thin line of policemen were viciously attacked, and many injured, by a mob that included not only football hooligans, but other policemen (in civilian clothing). Despite repeated calls for help by the commanding officer, reinforcements weren’t sent to back them these policemen up.

Webber
Guest

“Rablóból pandúr” (making a policeman of a robber) or something of the sort is common in most languages near Hungary (sorry for the poor Hungarian).

karak86
Guest
Webber, buddy: In 2006 all the major news outlets were warned, their attention called to certain important events which were to happen that night (at the TV headquarters). The anonymous future teller turned out to be right. Elek Tokfalvi, the blogger suspected as many others do that the 2006 events were carried out by a bipartizan, rogue faction of the national security apparatus called by Tokfalvi the “Brancs” or something like the outfit, the cabal, the gang. The 2006 events were, in his view, a retaliation by the Brancs because Gyurcsany cut the influence of this group after he replaced Andras Toth with Szilvasy. Andras Toth, although nominally an MSZP politician (and formerly of MSZMP) was actually loyal to the services not to politics or ideology. This Brancs is supposed to include a lose group of service people mostly, but not exclusively those who entered the services prior to 1990. Let’s not forget that the identities of only III/III agents and their handlers (though not even all of them) were made public (with some exceptions, like Janos Martonyi who was an III/II informant), the rest of the apparatus and their network effectively remained intact and for all we know is… Read more »
Webber
Guest

karak86 – Bingo!
Pintér is another example of how and why Hungary’s lack of lustration is so corrosive. Fidesz has voted against lustration every time it came before parliament. Unless I’m very much mistaken, those few Fidesz members who voted for lustration the last time it came before parliament (it was an open vote) were taken off the Fidesz lists in 2014 and are no longer in parliament.

HiBoM
Guest

@Webber, isn’t Béla Kovács-Turi still an MP? He voted for it (to my mild surprise)

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