Shady Hungarian wheelers and dealers in Russia

When in February I wrote a post on Ernő Keskeny, “the man behind the Russian-Hungarian rapprochement,” I was planning to write about another key figure, Szilárd Kiss, who was also instrumental in convincing Viktor Orbán of the importance of the Russian market for Hungary. At the moment Kiss is in jail in connection with defrauding the already ailing Orgovány és Vidéke Takarékszövetkezet. The fraud itself involved a loan of 700 million forints that Kiss couldn’t pay back but that, with the assistance of the president of the credit union and a businessman friend, he managed to settle for 140 million, 40 of which went into the pocket of the bank president. It is unlikely that Kiss will be able to wiggle himself out of this very tricky situation because he and his businessman friend discussed all the details of the deal on a wiretapped telephone.

That was in the summer of 2013. Even after that date, however, Kiss remained a member of the Hungarian diplomatic corps. Now that he is in jail nobody wants to take responsibility for having hired him, but it looks as if it was the ministry of agriculture, specifically the minister, Sándor Fazekas, who thought that Kiss would do a bang-up job in Moscow, where he claimed to have important friends in government circles. Kiss spent the larger part of his adult life in Russia and has a Russian wife or a girlfriend of long standing, Yelena Tsvetkova, who also has extensive ties to Russian politicians. She is in charge of the newly established Hungarian visa center in Moscow. This is the office where Russian citizens for a certain amount of money can gain permission to settle in Hungary.

Otherwise Kiss worked as a lobbyist for business people interested in Russian or Hungarian opportunities, while making sure that he received payment for his good offices in these transactions. He usually asked people to invest in his own mostly failing enterprises. It was most likely that kind of arrangement that was behind a deal between Sergey Galitsky, a Russian billionaire, and Péter Szijjártó, then still undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, to establish a large logistical center for Galitsky’s chain of supermarkets, Magnit, in Hungary. In return, Galitsky became a partner in one of Kiss’s businesses, Winexport Kft. The logistical center has been shelved.

It is bad enough that one of the government’s top advisers on Russian agro-business turned out to be a swindler. Quaestor, perhaps the largest of the recently failed financial conglomerates, also had a role to play in the foreign business plans of the Orbán government. Quaestor, the financial empire of Csaba Tarsoly, managed the Moscow and Istanbul branches of the government’s Magyar Nemzeti Kereskedőház (Hungarian National Trading House), designed to encourage and smooth the way for ventures of Hungarian businessmen in Russia and Turkey and Russian and Turkish businessmen in Hungary. Yesterday the Hungarian foreign ministry broke the contract with Quaestor.

Szilárd Kiss and Csaba Tarsoly are no strangers. Kiss for years was on the board of at least two Quaestor firms, Quaestor Financial Consulting and Quaestor Energy. The two men had joint business ventures in Russia because Tarsoly believed Kiss’s fabulous stories about his extensive connections in Russia. According to Index, Kiss as usual failed to deliver.

Péter Szijjártó, Elena Tsvetkova, and Csaba Tarsoly at the opening of the Moscow Trading house, November 19, 2014

Péter Szijjártó, Yelena Tsvetkova, and Csaba Tarsoly at the opening of the Moscow Trading House, November 19, 2014

And now enter Viktor Orbán’s friend from Felcsút, Lőrinc Mészáros. While the journalists of Index were looking for Kiss’s Russian businesses, they found a company called Mадьяp that was established in November 2012. Originally it belonged to Kiss alone, but by now he has two partners, a Russian woman and Lőrinc Mészáros. The mayor of Felcsút did not include this Russian business on his financial statement. When confronted by the journalist, Mészáros sounded truly confused. At one point he thought that he was part owner of Verngerskie Produkti, but he was mistaken. That company’s sole owner is Szilárd Kiss.

Mészáros apparently decided to do business with Kiss because Kiss promised him that he would be able to sell his bacon to Magnit, the huge Russian supermarket chain whose owner is a partner in one of Kiss’s businesses. Keep in mind that it was not so long ago that Viktor Orbán himself opened his friend’s mangalica farm. But it is a modest business, while Magnit has 7,500 stores all over Russia. So, the whole thing sounds like a hoax to me, the kind Szilárd Kiss seems to specialize in.

Viktor Orbán’s new type of diplomacy has not only led to Hungary’s isolation. His reliance on shady businessmen who convinced him that old-fashioned diplomacy is a thing of the past has embroiled the country in crooked and/or fanciful business deals. And it seems to me that Orbán hasn’t learned his lesson yet because only a couple of days ago he delivered a lecture to Hungarian diplomats about his philosophy of a new-age diplomacy. Unfortunately, his ideas come straight from swindlers who are already in jail or will be there soon.

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tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest

It is utterly depressing to read of the activities of such “shady businessmen” – a very polite term if I may say so. The stench of corruption is overwhelming and sickening.

petofi
Guest

From what I read on Greek ultimatums to the EU….the standard of morality of Greece and Hungary are about equal.
How revolting is it that modern moral standards are being hacked by the evil threesome of Russia, Hungary and Greece.

István
Guest
Bullshitting and scamming is an art form amongst these Hungarian hustlers. Really nothing should be a surprise – should it? I can’t possibly believe any Hungarian with any level of wealth who has lived in the USA or in a more prosperous western state and gone home to Hungary hasn’t had contact with a hustler like Szilárd Kiss, sometimes they are even in-law members of our families in Hungary. Sometimes we are out clubbing in Budapest and such a hustler makes contact with us with some business opportunity that is too good to miss. Even in a state of inebriation most of us avoid such obvious too good to be true deals. Given the quality of the intellect of most posters on this blog probably very few of us get taken for our money. But in the case of Kiss he made it big and was able to bullshit the great leader himself, hence rising to the heights he did. We should take solace in this, my Polish friends here in Chicago tell me stories of their hustlers too and crazy deals they have been offered back home. Polish hustlers also proliferate in Chicago at all levels, here is one… Read more »
Webber
Guest

There are swindlers in every country, but the poorer the country the more such swindlers you’ll find. Some of them rise to great heights in poorer countries.
On an ENTIRELY different topic; Can someone please tell me how Andy Vajna made his first million? (dollars, not forints)

tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest

@Webber You are of course absolutely right: There are scoundrels and swindlers in all countries. The thing is, proper liberal democracies recognise this fact and put in place a pervasive system of checks and balances that ensure the activities if such people are detected early enough to prevent too much harm. Such states also have an unwavering commitment to the rule of law. Transgressions are not tolerated, and are dealt with by due legal processes. Yes, it is a constant battle to prevent these scoundrels and swindlers from doing their dirty deeds and sometimes some of them get away with it – even in the most advanced liberal democracies.

As we know of course the current regime actively works against building a liberal democracy and instead has fastidiously established a mafia-like state where scoundrels and swindlers prosper – so long as they pay their dues to their masters by enriching them. We know all this yes, but is still sickening to read of their blatantly corrupt activities that can only exist with the active connivance Orbán and his cronies.

Ron
Guest

Webber: Can someone please tell me how Andy Vajna made his first million?

I believe it was the movie First Blood with Stallone as John Rambo. And that movie was a gamble.

You find more information on the Wikipedia of Mario Kassar than on Vajna about this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Kassar

Gibbons
Guest
I guess Webber meant Vajna’s first million before entering the movie business. As I recall Vajna somehow bought a factory in Hong Kong or something which he sold with a huge profit and then decided to make films first in HK then in the US. But who knows? There are also a nice stories on the internet circulating about the Hungarian mafia (of course was a mafia in the Hungarian sense, they were petty criminal compared to the I dunno Gambino and Genovese crime families) on the West Coast in the 1980’s and Vajna at minimum must have known this bunch well for upon returning to Hungary he worked with its alleged members. Needless to say the Hungarian secret service was inside that mafia too and during the 1980’s a young ministry of interior investigator worked on the crimes committed in Hungary (ie. before the perpetrators immigrated to the US), named Sandor Pinter. But I think Vajna made genuine money from Rambo et al, however the big question in the movie business is whose money you invest in the picture. The Carolco pictures (Kassar/Vajna/Golan) were essentially indie movies, that is not financed by the big studios, so the producers like… Read more »
Max
Guest

The foreign ministry has abolished traditional diplomacy, while pro-Western diplomats have been kicked out.

What remained is foreign trade representation, which increasingly turns out to be a mere lobbying activity for the business interests of Fidesz cronies.

qaz
Guest

“It is unlikely that Kiss will be able to wiggle himself out of this very tricky situation because he and his businessman friend discussed all the details of the deal on a wiretapped telephone.”

Not only a crook, but a dumb one!

Guest

In light of all these damning reports in Hungarian Spectrum – day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year – could someone please tell me what is there to like about Hungary and Hungarians?

Is there anything at all?

And if so, what makes us all to continually obsess about Hungary and Hungarians on this forum, me included?

This compulsive interest in Hungarian dirt – and there seems very little else these days in Hungary – would appear quite inexplicable to a rational mind.

I don’t know, may be it is some kind of an acquired taste that one can’t seem to (want to?) get rid of.

Member
Right away a poem spring to mind, and as wanted to copy it here, I put its title into google. The first result came from the Jobbik’s local office of Kecel…. Radnóti Miklós: Nem tudhatom… Nem tudhatom, hogy másnak e tájék mit jelent, nekem szülőhazám itt e lángoktól ölelt kis ország, messzeringó gyerekkorom világa. Belőle nőttem én, mint fatörzsből gyönge ága s remélem, testem is majd e földbe süpped el. Itthon vagyok. S ha néha lábamhoz térdepel egy-egy bokor, nevét is, virágát is tudom, tudom, hogy merre mennek, kik mennek az uton, s tudom, hogy mit jelenthet egy nyári alkonyon a házfalakról csorgó, vöröslő fájdalom. Ki gépen száll fölébe, annak térkép e táj, s nem tudja, hol lakott itt Vörösmarty Mihály, annak mit rejt e térkép? gyárat s vad laktanyát, de nékem szöcskét, ökröt, tornyot, szelíd tanyát, az gyárat lát a látcsőn és szántóföldeket, míg én a dolgozót is, ki dolgáért remeg, erdőt, füttyös gyümölcsöst, szöllőt és sírokat, a sírok közt anyókát, ki halkan sírogat, s mi föntről pusztitandó vasút, vagy gyárüzem, az bakterház s a bakter előtte áll s üzen, piros zászló kezében, körötte sok gyerek, s a gyárak udvarában komondor hempereg; és ott a park, a régi szerelmek… Read more »
petofi
Guest

If Fanni was alive, and you had asked her, I don’t think she would’ve allowed you
to use a Radnoti poem to expiate the sins of modern Hungarians…

Guest
@Some1 March 12, 2015 at 9:38 am This is very beautiful and touching patriotic poetry, or patriotic love poetry, and particularly moving because it was written by a tremendously gifted poet bestially and deliberately tortured, humiliated and shortly to be murdered by non-Jewish compatriots, just because his parents happened to be Jewish. In the circumstances in which this poem was written, it is of course an irrational cri de coeur, at once incredibly brave, poignant and piteous to the nth degree. It is also an apt end-point to romantic self-brainwashing and fostering delusions about Hungary and Hungarians by several generations of assimilationist Hungarian Jews, precisely illustrating one of the biggest things to dislike about Hungary and Hungarians, at least by persons of Jewish extraction. But aside from intense grass-roots antisemitism, which us Jews of course don’t much like (though most Hungarian non-Jews of course enthusiastically embrace), and disregarding the plaintive self-pity combined with romantic delusions and with a national historical consciousness which is in many respects feeds on 19th century myth-making and wishful thinking that is so characteristic of Hungarians, and setting aside for a moment the gems of Hungarian poetry, what really is there to like about Hungary and… Read more »
Member

I understand what you are saying, but honestly my connection to Hungary is exactly like that. When I visit my parents and my relatives, I remember all the great things, hardly the bad ones. When I walk by the Hero’s Square I remember my first kiss when I was 16 year old. I imagine all the great stuff what this country has to offer, and I am so embarrassed when my in-laws are asking me about our crazy PM. I want to see Hungary to evolve something great, because all the potential is there. I want my Hungarian family to be happy, and to be able to enjoy the kind of democracy, and freedom I am accustomed to in Canada.

spectator
Guest

“What is this strange fascination we all have, including myself, to obsess endlessly about the flaws of Hungary and Hungarians?”

Mike, I don’t even have a mouse in any fight, have no relatives, family, none. Albeit I care.
Perhaps because I can not accept the sad fact that the same people whom I’ve left there could change that much to the worse.
Yes, I’m “made in Hungary” – manufactured of locally available materials – and it probably means that I bear those flaws too – due to the mold – that anybody else from around there. What may make some difference is the willingness to face with my shortcomings and make some effort to change.

And somehow I hoping that by trying to open a few eyes, broaden a few horizons and show things from another point of view may inspire few people too to think, think different even.

Or they don’t, but then it was their deliberate choice and not the lack of information, as I see it.

tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest

May I recommend to all Zoltán Latinovits reading this great poem –

My Hungarian is not good enough to fully understand this poem in its original language, but Latinovits reading it always sends chills down my spine.

Member

Lovely. Thank you for this.

Member

petofi
Guest

Those of us who live in-country try to get rid of the stain(s), but like Lady Macbeth, none
of it will go away.

Seriously, it’s hard to come to grips with the Hungarian ‘mind’ and why it tolerates, neigh, enjoys, the mayhem. Could it be that the norm has adopted the worst of Roma practices
in their 1000 years of joint history?

But better not to find blame: after all, Hungarians deserve all the credit alone for achieving an ‘illiberal democracy’….

Guest

For me at least the answer is simple:
I live in Hungary – at least part of the time and I love my wife and her family and also am on good terms with my neighbours …
So I’m interested in what’s going on – and I have to confess I don’t understand it …

andysomos
Guest

If yar NOT jokin’ then dont be shy – make a list of what y nix unterstanden – und send me by personal message (fb) if yar shy. I’ll get my old pals from the US embassy to explain to you… Gel?

tappanch
Guest

Today, the European Union overruled the new Hungarian law about the advertisement tax, banning it.

http://bruxinfo.hu/cikk/20150312-felfuggesztette-brusszel-a-progressziv-reklamado-alkalmazasat.html

Help! Legal question to scholars of European law:

If the European Commission has the right to ban this Hungarian law, didn’t they have the right to intervene when democracy was being destroyed (media law, the abolishing of the constitution etc.) ??

Member
Why the EU’s Hands Are Tied (So Far) In Attempts to Return Hungary to Democracy From my understanding of Professor Scheppele’s lucid explanation last week of why the EU is so slow to do anything about Orban’s systematic departure from democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, it is because the matters over which the EC has power are only the economic ones codified in the old 6-member Common Market days of the EU. The rules pertaining to freedom, law, democracy came later, along the way to the much bigger 28-member EU, and depended not just on the EC but also on the EP as well as the Committee of Europe member-state MPs: The EC could refuse membership to countries that did not comply, but there was nothing (other than Article 7) that the EC could use with those who were already members, and then refused to comply. Only the economic rules still had a bite (economic). (As it stands, changing this to make the democratic measures enforceable would require the consent of all 28 members: so the violator could always veto any change.) This is probably why the specific violation of the advertisement rules was enforceable but the… Read more »
Realitycheck
Guest

Scheppele gets into that question here:

Guest

For collectors of coincidences. The RTL director was fired a few days before the advertisement tax was banned.

tappanch
Guest

So the leadership of the RTL sacrificed the Mr Gerkens for no good reasons, only as a favor to Lazar & Orban.

The newspapers rumored days ago that Lazar had documents about Mr Rudas’s shady deals that is why RTL caved in.

petofi
Guest

The very worst of ‘tribal rule’–2,000BC in 2,000AD….possible only in modern Hungary.

tappanch
Guest

The corruption charge against former Socialist politician Hagyo has collapsed, since the key witness withdrew his testimony.

The witness claims that he committed perjury to avoid pre-trial detention by police and prosecutors.

http://nol.hu/belfold/hagyo-per-sajat-boret-mentette-a-bkv-vezer-1521653

I think we can observe that Fidesz won absolute power in 2010 by the false claim that the Socialists were very corrupt.

Was there a single conviction? I do not remember one.

Checks and balances has been bulldozed since 2010, so the level of corruption must be around 100 [or perhaps 1000] times larger now than before 2010.

tappanch
Guest

The Hungarian equivalent of C-Span (live broadcasts of the Parliamentary sessions) will be killed from next week.

Hungarian voters will be even less informed, the opposition parties will lose their limited, but last opportunity to propagate their opinion.

In addition, they are cancelling my 95-year-old mother’s favorite television show !!

Shame on Fidesz.

http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/megszunik-parlamenti-kozvetites-kozteven-134378.html

tappanch
Guest

Billions after billions of EU money land at the companies of Orban’s son-in-law:

It is Szolnok today.

http://444.hu/2015/03/12/tiborczek-megnyertek-a-szolnoki-kozvilagitas-korszerusiteset-is/

This is detailed piece of investigative journalism (bravo!) why only the son-in-law can win (or even enter) the tenders.:

http://444.hu/2015/03/11/igy-kaptak-tiborczek-szabad-utat-a-milliardokhoz/

spectator
Guest

Must be a ‘bright’ lad!

Probably the only one in the vicinity who knows how to change a lightbulb…!
As thighs developing over there, the chance that I’m right increasing exponentially by the day.
By night too, but we can’t see it as long as Tiborcz jr won’t come around to change every single one of them lights. Don’t take very long time to him, so cheer up people!

dénes bana
Guest

At the Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem (National Public Service University, where György Matolcsy will be awarded a Phd soon and the police/army/security services/tax inspectors are educated) the main textbook on social security administration says that “the Bajnai, Bokros (sic! Bokros was minister of finance for a while under the Horn governmet) and Gyurcsány governments were the leaders in worsening the demographic situation which was anyway not too advantageous and thereby in the increase of the implicit government debt.” Just so the kids know which governments were baaaad.

http://munchausenparokaja.tumblr.com/post/113434724311/a-bajnai-bokros-es-gyurcsany-kormanyok-jartak

Tamas
Guest

Whoops, Paks 2 is in limbo? Rest assured Orban will never, ever give it up, just because the Commission has some legal issues…

But why did Fidesz remain silent about the rejections for so long, after all Navracsics was present at the decision?

Arpad
Guest

No biggie at all, Orban will tender the supply of the fuel rods. Of course, somehow, as a total coincidence, the Russians will win the tender (no, actually MET Ag’s German subsidiary will win the tender and will supply the same Russian rods), but at least nobody can say in the EU that we didn’t hold a fair tender.

Poor Eurocrats think they can outsmart Orban…they need to get up earlier, much much earlier than that (as we say in Hungary).

Paks 2 is The Top Priority Project for Orban (although the Olympic games, the Museum Project and the Castle Hill Projects are also in this category) and he will never give it up. I mean what can the Commission do? Send troops to Hungary to blow up the thing if Orban doesn’t comply and builds it disregarding the critical issues? There you go.

Arpad
Guest

False alarm. Andras Giro-Szasz absolutely, categorically denies the scoops and is moving to request a correction from FT, which broke the news. Paks 2 is on track.

csaba
Guest

Plus, for the Finns the Commission OKd the deal after the Finns undertook to hold a tender for the fuel rods, so that’s what Hungarians will do, tender the deal and then the Eu can’t say anything. Yes, we will organize, a fair, international, open tender if that’s what the EU wants so much :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Jamal
Guest

No, there’s a better option. Westinghouse (Areva etc.) can supply the rods. Sure, why not? Give the Americans a bit too, they will love it, we will look generous and nice.

There will be a contract, the EU will love it too. Meanwhile the buildings will be built, money will be spent, debt will be amassed.

And then when it will turn out that Westinghouse cannot really deliver (as it failed in Ukraine too, due to different technologies), the agreement will be terminated and then coincidentally Rosatom will quickly deliver those rods. Case closed. Hehehhehhe.

Remember: Pask 2 will be built. Orban will cut his hands off before giving up Paks.

Member
RE. @Stevan Harnad comment. Here is a more professional description of the situation regarding the EU and the enforcement of democracy, etc. in a member state… http://messzelatoblog.hu/blog/osszekovacsol_vagy_szetfeszit The author is a paid blogger and a standing ambassador with extensive EU background. Her arguments are realistic. It looks like the government position remained unchanged. I recall that many months ago @Eva was considering the option that Prof.Scheppele is proposing now. BTW there are news that EU COM is undermining Paks-II. The approach could be legal (from the EU’s point of view) but not sure if it is wise too. RE. today’s subject I agree with @Max. Anyone with limited education in economics would know that market reorientation would take a decade not year(s) and sustained efforts of dedicated pro’s. (A relatively successful example is Romania.) A different question is what you can buy and sell. Someone could continue on and on… Therefore, what we learned today is either the rock bottom or the tip of the iceberg. Quick silver? One widely overlooked subject is the steady inflow of students from countries with questionable reputation in turn to save universities from bankruptcy. These elite kids are offered a “European” diploma for no… Read more »
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