Hungary is buzzing with the news that broke around 6:00 p.m. Viktor Orbán may have been in the service of the Hungarian equivalent of Stasi, reporting on his friends and acquaintances to the feared ministry of interior. The man who revealed his long-kept secret was Lajos Simicska, whose not always legitimate commercial activities allowed Orbán to become the strong man of Hungary and who, over the course of the past year, fell out with the prime minister.
Mandiner got the scoop. The online paper had sent an sms to Simicska, asking him for a lengthier interview. Today the telephone rang. It was Simicska, saying that he was ready to give a shorter telephone interview right now and that he might be available for an in-depth interview sometime in the future.
He began the interview with his family’s story. Despite his working class background, he was considered to be the son of an enemy of the people. His father was active in one of the workers’ councils that mushroomed during the revolution and for some months afterwards. Simicska’s father was ruined, financially as well as physically, and therefore the whole family harbored a deep hatred of the regime. Lajos Simicska even refused to become a pioneer.
Although he was by all accounts a brilliant student, he was accepted to university only the third time around. Thus, although he was older than Orbán, they ended up in the same class at ELTE’s law school. But before they began their studies the two young men from Székesfehérvár had to serve a year in the army. There Simicska was called in by one of the top officers on the base, who had a heart-to-heart with the young man, who was by then 22 years old. On the officer’s desk was a thick folder full of reports about Simicska, going back to high school. The authorities seemed to know everything about him. Even what he said on a camping trip. The officer warned him to watch himself because his university studies might be in jeopardy.
Simicska knew some of the people who reported on him, while “there was one who came and told me himself: ‘Look, Lajos, this is the situation. I have to report on you.’ I told that person that I hold no rancor and I’m glad you told me. We will figure out together what to write. I guess you can figure out whom I’m taking about.” Yes, he was talking about Viktor Orbán.
When all the university-bound recruits were discharged from the army, they waited in the cafeteria, already in civilian clothes, for trains to take them home. Orbán was pulled out from the group. The young men headed for Székesfehérvár actually boarded the train and Orbán was still nowhere. Once they arrived home, they decided to have a party. Orbán unexpectedly showed up and, when Simicska asked him where he had been, Orbán told him that “they wanted him to sign an agreement to report but that he said no.” Simicska said that he didn’t doubt Orbán’s veracity for thirty years. When the reporter asked whether he still believes him, Simicska’s answer was “By now, I don’t know what to think.”
It is noteworthy that the thick folder Simicska saw on the officer’s desk, as well as subsequent reports on Simicska, seem to have disappeared from the archives of the ministry of interior. When Simicska asked for the reports written about him, he was told there were none. I should mention that in 1998 Viktor Orbán put his friend, László Kövér, into a relatively unimportant position in his government. He became minister without portfolio in charge of the secret services, past and present, and thus had access to the archives of the internal spy network. He served in this capacity for only two years, until 2000, when he became the chairman of Fidesz. Some people suspected that Kövér’s duties included cleansing the files of the archives of the domestic spy network of any material that might implicate members of the Fidesz leadership.
Simicska thinks that although many files are missing in Budapest, all the files are available in Moscow. I don’t know why Simicska is so confident that everything recorded in Hungary was automatically sent to Moscow. But, based on this assumption, Simicska believes that Vladimir Putin is fully aware of Viktor Orbán’s secret agent activities and that the Russian president thus has a powerful weapon at his disposal. As Simicska put it, “if these documents exist [in Moscow], they would surely upset the apple cart at home.” It was Orbán’s turn to Russia that made Simicska suspicious.
Mandiner naturally asked the prime minister’s office for a response. The office released a letter written by Viktor Orbán in 2012 to Ágnes Vadai, who asked about his possible involvement with the Kádár era’s secret service. In it, he denied any connection and released a number of documents, from which we learn that it was actually he and his wife who were the objects of scrutiny of the communist government. Of the many documents only one, from August 1987, has any relevance to his possible involvement with the secret service. In it there is a single sentence about his 1982 encounter with the secret service. But this sentence doesn’t refer to the meeting between an officer of the secret service and Viktor Orbán that he told Simicska about. It simply says that “the III/III-2 Department of the Ministry of Interior studied Dr. Orbán in 1982 with the object of signing him on, but they decided against it.” I might add that the attached documents are not facsimile copies of the original typed reports.