A crime in search of a more coherent cover-up

Today being Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave another interview on Magyar Rádió’s Kossuth channel. Naturally, the Quaestor scandal was the first topic to be discussed. After a close reading of the text, I decided that it was worth spending a post on how the story line of this whole sordid affair has been changing from day to day.

Last night I watched an interview with László Kéri, a political science professor who has known Viktor Orbán and his friends ever since their college days. He expressed his total disgust that “in three weeks [Viktor Orbán] could only come up with such an infantile, obvious, and slapdash story.” And that interview took place before yet another version of the government’s involvement with Quaestor was presented today.

So, let me try to summarize what kinds of stories were fed to the unsuspecting public in the last two days. You may recall that yesterday morning Viktor Orbán admitted his personal involvement. He was the one who instructed all ministries at one of the cabinet meetings to check whether they had any assets at certain brokerage firms and, if yes, to withdraw them immediately. He didn’t mention the date of the cabinet meeting, but journalists suspected that March 4th was the most likely date, which was indirectly confirmed by János Lázár, who at a press conference yesterday talked about Orbán’s instruction “only at the beginning of March.” But by today the story changed, most likely because the early March date was too close to the collapse of Quaestor and lent credence to the charge of insider trading.

András Giró-Szász and János Lázár at yesterday's press conference

András Giró-Szász and János Lázár at yesterday’s press conference

Therefore, in his interview this morning, again without mentioning an exact date, Orbán said that his decision to withdraw government monies from brokerage firms “was made immediately after the collapse of Buda-Cash, at the time when there was no sign of any other bankruptcies” and not in early March, as János Lázár claimed only yesterday.

At this point, the reporter asked whether it was at a cabinet meeting that “this instruction was uttered,” and more importantly, whether minutes of the meeting are available. The answer to this question was curious. “There must be [biztosan]. We took a look at the situation after the bankruptcy of Buda-Cash and decided that I will call together the leaders of the municipalities, some 60 of them, to the parliament for a meeting. At that [cabinet] meeting we looked at the situation and decided that we couldn’t take such a risk.”

My problems begin with the very first word which, in my opinion, in this context does not carry the meaning of absolute certainty, although the literal English equivalent of “biztosan” is “sure, surely.” I believe that my rendition as “there must be” is more accurate. An unequivocally positive answer in Hungarian would be something like “persze” (of course), or “természeten” (naturally). So, in my interpretation Orbán did not want to give the impression that he could actually come up with a transcript of what took place at this cabinet meeting.

The sentences that I just quoted do not support Viktor Orbán’s assertion that he explicitly instructed the ministers to withdraw government assets from questionable brokerage firms. If you read the text carefully, the only thing that he claims happened at that cabinet meeting was a discussion of the problems of 68 municipalities that kept their assets in one of the four small banks belonging to the Buda-Cash Group. If there is a transcript at all, which I doubt, I suspect one would find a discussion of these municipalities’ plight and absolutely no instructions concerning government assets at Quaestor.

But that was not the only lie that Orbán told in this interview about the Quaestor case. A second concerned the nature of the assets in which the ministry of foreign affairs and trade invested 3.5 billion forints. Again, a word-for-word translation is necessary. “As things stand now, what I know now is that we are talking about government bonds, so it is money that comes from the budget. These state institutions kept their money in government bonds which they purchased from the brokerage firms. So, if I understand it correctly, they didn’t gamble with the money of the taxpayers. They put it into secure paper, but these bonds were at the wrong place.” This story is most likely the brainchild of the last 24 hours because the first time we heard about secure government bonds was at János Lázár’s press conference yesterday afternoon. But then how it is possible that Quaestor didn’t simply return the secure government bonds worth 3.5 billion forints but decided instead to send the 3.5 billion in cash? A reporter actually asked Lázár about the anomaly, but Lázár’s only answer was that the ministry might press charges against the brokerage firm and that this just shows that a bunch of crooks ran Quaestor.

And this was not the end of the lies Viktor Orbán managed to put together for this Friday. The third one concerned a letter that Csaba Tarsoly, CEO of Quaestor, sent to Viktor Orbán. The first story was that Tarsoly’s letter was sent to Péter Szijjártó, Tarsoly’s buddy, with a request for help. He asked Szijjártó to pass the letter on to Orbán. According to Lázár, the letter in which Tarsoly announced the impending bankruptcy of Quaestor reached Orbán “at the beginning of March.” That date sounds plausible because, according to earlier information, it was on March 5th that Péter Szijjártó decided to withdraw the ministry’s money from the firm. But that date is terribly inconvenient for Orbán because it would indicate that he instructed Szijjártó to withdraw the ministry’s assets based on insider information. That must be avoided. So, the letter got postdated to March 9th, the day of Quaestor’s official bankruptcy announcement. Viktor Orbán learned about Tarsoly’s problems on the same day that the Hungarian National Bank was informed of the firm’s collapse.

Today we at last found out that the cabinet meeting at which Orbán allegedly warned the ministers of the impending doom took place on February 25, a day after the collapse of Buda-Cash. But, if this story is true, Szijjártó’s ministry was in no hurry to save the taxpayers’ money. Szijjártó waited nine solid days before he allegedly followed the prime minister’s instructions and demanded a return of their billions. Something doesn’t add up here. But then we know that most crime novelists write several drafts before all the pieces fall into place. Eventually the Orbán government may craft a coherent story.

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Member
Most Hungarian people are entirely clueless, how a normal Government supposed to work, how do independent, special investigations are conducted agains a President and or high office holder of suspecting committing a crime. (The US has impeachment procedure for such occurrence) Therefore the Hungarian people can be fed with the most plausible and impossible stories, a 4 year old would not even listen to in other countries and they don’t revolt, hearing the absurd lies day in and day out. This is the only reason, why the Orbán Government purposely does NOT keep written records of the meetings they have. Everything is done verbally and in secret and without any consent and they lie blatantly and constantly to the people. Hungarians allow their Government to work as a band of common thieves in complete secrecy, without accountability, immersed in compete corruption and with full immunity. Therefore they deserve what they get. They are deaf, dumb, blind, careless, helpless and infinitely tolerant toward authority and power, even if that is illegitimate and lawless. They are ersatz citizens and inactive at that. There are dozens of other activities responsible citizens are obligated to do in a democratic society. These obligations don’t begin… Read more »
googly
Guest

gybognarjr,

You wrote: “Therefore they deserve what they get. They are deaf, dumb, blind, careless, helpless and infinitely tolerant toward authority and power, even if that is illegitimate and lawless.”

So to you, deaf, dumb and blind people who are helpless and get robbed deserve what they get. I’m glad you’re not in charge of taking care of the mentally and physically disabled!

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

googly… Your critic of gybognarjr is almost perfect, the only problem that, “the mentally and physically disabled!” is probably not the people who suppose to act in BOGNAR’s view, rather he considers, the “dozens of other activities responsible citizens are obligated to do in a democratic society”, which includes me too. I feel guilty. I hate the cliche “Freedom is not free” but in this case it sound just right.

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

gybognarjr…Sad forecast, very sad, but I have no good counter argument. It is painful to see the destruction of our homeland, and the collapse of a society that deserves a much better life. So, why eastern Europe is so suicidal ? What do you think ? Language-culture, demographic swings, IT-Globalization ? All above ? How to stop it ? These are rhetorical questions, I don’t expect answers, especially in public, but I think your post suggest correctly the lack of “..activities responsible citizens are obligated to do in a democratic society.”

steve397
Guest

My father always said that you must have an excellent memory if you are a liar.

nwo
Guest

Great work Eva.
As many of us have learned over the years, the cover-up does more damage than the original crime.
However, I agree with those who say that still many people seem not to be able to understand the Government’s active role in causing the immediate insolvency of Quaestor. My wife’s relatives who were “investors” still blame cheating business people only and do not see the Govt’s role in this (and these are NOT FIDESZ loyalists).

Live long and prosper
Guest

Hard to believe that the practice of parking government funds with private brokerages wasn’t long ago prohibited, as it provides such a blatantly obvious opportunity for malfeasance. But it fits the situation in Hungary perfectly, where this grotesque political ‘elite’ are obsessively preoccupied with mutual rocket polishing, and the sheeplike electorate, whether admiring or envious, long for their chance to participate. If it wasn’t an EU country in which herds of poor work for peanuts, it would be as significant in every way as Belarus.

petofi
Guest

“…sheeplike electorate..”

Let’s be clear about what constitutes the ‘unseen electrified fences’ that keep the
electorate sheeplike–

a) It is un-Hungarian (un-patriotic) not to sacrifice for the homeland as the swathed-in-flag, heroic, leader suggests;

b) In support of the above, the Catholic Church seconds, and fully supports, the demands of the heroic leader. To go against that is to counter the wishes of mother Church, with, of course, all the hidden threats that suggests.

The above two elements have successfully cornered, and hog-tied, the average Hungarian mentality. They–church in collusion with the state–have built a most high
wall that even Kafka’s state characters would have envied.

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

I agree with you, and yet I think this book will be a good read for you.
http://www.amazon.com/What-Money-Cant-Buy-Markets/dp/0374533652

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

“rocket polishing” 🙂 That was a good one, and mutual…. LOL

July
Guest

Great work, I agree, thanks.

It’s clear that Orban and his people have been lying and will do absolutely anything to prevent a potential legal action (not that it would be even minimally likely under Polt, but just in case). In a few days, they will have a coherent story and then they will stick to it, forge the necessary documents and so on.

Practically all documents regarding Questor (other than Questor Broker which is run by the Central Bank) have been shred in the last 3 weeks, so all the documents relating to party finance, individual deals with various fideszniks, shady deals at the Moscow Visa Centre etc. have been burnt — with the active help of the prosecution and the secret services.

I assume that the Vise Center in Moscow run jointly by Questor and Szilard Kiss (a KGB agent crook about whom index.hu is running a serialized report) employed some Hungarian people who came in very handy for Tarsoly in the last few weeks.

At most, a few brokers will be convicted ten years from now, but the most problematic angles (politics, politicians, party finance) have been eliminated. That was the goal, mission accomplished.

Yamal
Guest

Hungary has been delaying the implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and is ordered to pay a daily EUR 15.4k for this failure.

As we know Orban can push through the Parliament any statutes in a day or two so why is he not enthusiastic about energy savings and efficiency?

Well, since Orban’s and his extended family personally benefit from more natural gas usage (MET Ag.) and electricity, that is Paks 2, savings are absolutely irrelevant. His interest is to delay these problematic directives and favor his personal and Russia’s interests.

If this isn’t high treason then I don’t know what is.

The level of corruption in Hungary would confound even people from Sierra Leone or Somalia. Corruption at the very highest level of the Hungarian government.

http://nol.hu/belfold/blokkoltak-a-rezsicsokkentest-1524699

HiBoM
Guest

I hope I’m wrong but I wonder if the rather muted response of the MSZP to this scandal is that the use of public money in ministries for private benefit began long before 2010. As so often, what I miss is anyone on the opposition side explaining the issues clearly and unambiguously. I don’t think the Hungarian public are anywhere near as dim as commentators here like to think, but one reason why they don’t get the “opposing view” is that no one is articulating one.

petofi
Guest

Of course you are right: MSZP and Fidesz have been splitting the take for many years, even before 2010. The political culture of Hungary has long accepted the sheering of the electorate as the norm. Those who wish to stop it or reform are quickly and effectively marginalized. It is not the case of one or two rotten apples in the barrel; rather, it’s the case that the whole barrel is rotten and no good fruit can survive untainted. This is the Hungarian reality.

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

Good point… I Think it is like farting in a car, a crime without criminals, racism without racists, and class warfare without class. The missing young, energetic, and organised population segment. 1985 ben az orszag lakossaga 18–38 év kozotti Összesen: 3 216 573 fő 2015 Összesen: 2 761 377 fő. At the same time, the 54 and older population:
2 709 610 fő rol….3 273 644 fő re novekszik. Forras: http://www.ksh.hu/interaktiv_korfa

Guest

Does Hungary have a madman alone in the cockpit?

petofi
Guest

Aptly put.

Member

Alone? Orban, Polt, Lazar, Szijjarto, Matolcsy.. that is not alone, that is a team!

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

Do you want to see a mad woman ? Send over Sarah Palin please … 🙂

Lajos
Guest

Fun facts: We knew that the personal assistant of Csaba Tarsoly is the boyfriend of the daughter of Peter Polt, the partizan fidesznik chief prosecutor. But it just occurred to me that Polt’s wife (Marianna Polt-Palásthy) is the HR head of the Central Bank. She used to be a deputy state secretary in the government and before that a prosecutor at the Chief Prosecutor’s Office (i.e. that of her husband).

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

Lajos, it is briliant and fun news, if it is true, and BP is really just a big village. 1.5 degree of separation … 🙂

Guest

Unbelievable – a real mafia “family”!
I remember having seen somewhere a kind of graph that showed some (not all, that’s surely not possible) connections between companies, offices and people in the Hungarian government and other institutions. That might have to be updated …

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

I think we are no longer the pioneers.
http://www.ted.com/talks/james_b_glattfelder_who_controls_the_world?language=en

A Nagy idők tanúja (1974) című könyve ironikus pikareszkregény, amely egy mások hiszékenységéből élő kalandor sikereit és kudarcait meséli el. Az Emberi hang (1975) című novelláskötetében is a szatirikus előadásmód, a groteszk iránt megnyilvánuló érdeklődés uralkodik. A komédia mögött gyakran tragikus összeütközések rejlenek, az író egyszerre érez szánalmat és fölényt mulatságos hősei iránt. Bárány Tamás regényei és elbeszélései széles körű népszerűséget élveznek, ennek oka bizonyára abban kereshető, hogy mély ember-és valóságismeretét könnyed, olvasmányos formában, érdekes cselekmény kereté{888.} ben tudja kifejezésre juttatni. Ötletes humorát és cselekményvezetését tanúsítják színpadi játékai is, amelyeket Tornádó (1970) című kötetében gyűjtött össze.
http://mek.niif.hu/02200/02227/html/03/642.html

Lukács
Guest

Given the timing one wonders if this had anything to do with the Questor-octopus.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150302_Uj_vezetoje_lehet_a_titkosszolgalatnak

piroska
Guest
Webber
Guest

Blech…
And Jobbik’s leader Vona has suddenly started energetically distancing himself from anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism — in public (what goes on behind the scenes is something else). Vona is getting good advice, and doubtless funding too.
God help us.

spectator
Guest

According to your – well, theoretically – objective judgement, what else the Hungarian populace would deserve?

People who swallow all the Orbanian crap in hope that they’ll gonna get something out of it, thereby kept the presently ruling lowlifes in power for another round, now willingly going even deeper on the scale to these support openly Nazi swine don’t ever deserve anything better!

Have no doubt, in my opinion Fidesz is a Nazi party – as we know the original meaning of the word is Nazional-Sozialist – but while they are rather smug about it the Jobbik stands by the “classic values”, quite openly.

Vona – either recognised it all by himself or have gotten professional advice, since decided to go for the top – changing attitude in order to lure more supporters and appear near house-trained in the view of the EU, that’s the way to do.

Viktor getting slightly shopworn by all these ‘events’ which keeps turning up daily recently, if there is a viable alternative, people may turn to a new, ‘clean’ leader – and this person supposed to be Vona.

Might even work, mind you.

sunyilo12
Member

Well, whatever the domestic ramifications of this scandal are, it must be a very unpleasant international exposure for Orban and co. As the corruption allegations on Hungarian government officials late last year lead to 10%+ loss of Fidesz support across Hungarians imagine the consequences of the US and EU publicly putting the Hungarian MP and its cabinet on the spot for being corrupt and covering it up. Although this may not be in the West’s best interests – actually, it would be foolish of them not to take advantage of this stupid misstep of Orban re:the Russian relations – but I would not sleep well in place of Orban and his Schlepp thinking of such a possibility.

Member

I would like to propose a new symbol for fidesz: an orange wheelbarrow.

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

Two thumbs up !

EgyKulfoldiMagyar
Guest

The past and current leaders of Hungary have lacked any credibility.

Nasty PR kept the nation in ignorance, and silence.

It will take a miracle to end the 100 maybe 1000 year misery.

Guest

Re: ‘the 1000 year misery’

Poor old and buried Istvan. What would go through his mind if he saw modern age Hungary?

The thing with Istvan was that he kind of went another way repudiating the past to further develop the Magyar kingdom. It was through great sovereign political acts. Something tells me Hungarians may have to do the same as they apparently keep sinking into poisonous and corrosive pools endemic to democratic thought.

What with corruption, scandal, lying, stealing, cheating , obfuscation and malfeasance in the public trust , Hungary needs some better statesmen. They obviously aren’t getting it. Some may have to start turning the Magyar government ‘battleship’. Looks like it will take a while.

Mihaly Kummer
Guest

It seems to me that the combined brain power of this group is unusually high. So, maybe we can find the answer to this question:
What is the total amount of money that disappeared during the last 2.5 decades. Lets just stick with the countable money, so I think we should tally up the raid of private retirement funds, failed banks (mezobank, agrobank, postabank), and the deviza alapu hitel, now the broker firms collaps, plus some of the clearly stupid investments like MALEV game… Who can do that ? Any additional suggestion of debacle…to include ???

mikka
Guest

What would be very good to know:

Why did Gyurcsany give 17 billion forints of public money to Quaestor in unsecured loans when he was prime minister? That is essentially a gift now, a pure victory for Quaestor. Why were so many billions of public funds given to Questor? Why is nobody talking about this issue? Why is nobody investigating the links of Gyurcsany to questor.

Or is it the case simply that nobody knew that this company was fraudulent, and then trusting them is not a crime? Because Gyurcsany trusted them with a 17 billion loan from public money.

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