Spies allegedly working for the United States arrested in Hungary

However bizarre and unlikely this story, I think I should report on the two men who are currently in preventive custody in Hungary. The charge is espionage for the United States, the IMF, and the Swiss-Hungarian Grant.

The right-wing internet news site Válasz came out with the bombshell: “Exclusive: Was an American spy found in the Orbán government?” According to their information, one of the men, Norbert Maxin, was a business partner of Sándor Demján, one of the richest men in Hungary who has not been on the best terms with the Orbán government of late. Maxin was at one point strategic director of Polygon Informatikai Fejlesztő és Tanácsadó Kft. with headquarters in Szeged. Polygon did a thriving business at one time, but in 2013 it got into financial trouble because two of its major clients–OTP, the largest Hungarian bank, and MOL, the Hungarian oil company–stopped doing business with the firm. Moreover, a criminal investigation was launched against Nobert Maxin, who simply disappeared. The Szeged delmagyar.hu reported at the time that the FBI was investigating the case. Some people thought that Maxin was dead, but it turned out that he was only hiding in an apartment in Budapest, allegedly because he was afraid of being murdered.

Source: Mandiner.hu

Source: Mandiner.hu

We know very little about Norbert Maxin. For example, I was unable even to ascertain whether he is a Hungarian or an American. He uses the Hungarian form of his name, and his surname is occasionally spelled as Makszin.

We know a great deal more about his alleged accomplice, Béla Szabolcs Bukta, who was expansive on LinkedIn. After receiving a diploma in history and geography at the University of Debrecen in 1997, he worked as area development manager in the prime minister’s office during the first Orbán administration. After Orbán lost the election in 2002, Butka moved to the United States where he worked for a couple of firms in Buffalo and attended D’Youville College, receiving an M.S. degree in international business, specializing in trade relations, in 2005. He then relocated to Washington, where he became a project consultant for the World Bank Group-IFC. In 2006 he moved back to Hungary and worked for Arcade Research & Development Ltd. It was during his time at Arcade that he came to know Norbert Maxin, who was by then managing director of the firm. As soon as Viktor Orbán won the election in 2010 Bukta was back in government service. He got a job as deputy head of the IT development department of the National Development Ministry. In 2014 he moved to the National Tradehouse Corporation, which was supposed to develop brisk trade relations with mostly Far and Middle East countries but turned out to be a flop.

Átlátszó, an NGO that specializes in investigative journalism, also covered the story and unearthed more details of this bizarre case. According to the lawyer of Nobert Maxin, Gusztáv Kertész, although the criminal proceedings against the two men were launched last December, the story goes back to 2008 when the alleged crime was committed. Kertész is puzzled by the fact that this “spy” case is being handled by a department of the Nemzeti Nyomozó Iroda (NNI / Office of National Criminal Investigation) that deals with criminal activities connected to art treasures. Although it is true that Norbert Maxin is an art and book collector, the investigation has nothing to do with his hobby.

According to Kertész, one count of the espionage charge is that Maxin, through another person, passed on documents concerning Hungary’s defense plans to a NATO officer in the service of the U.S. Embassy. The lawyer points out that NATO should already have legally been in possession of these documents since Hungary is a member of the organization. Another charge is that Maxin in 2010, in a conversation with a member of the visiting IMF delegation, warned him about structuring the organization’s loan in such a way that no government could appropriate money given to the country as a whole. Another charge is that Maxin established a secret organization called “Birodalom” (Empire) which was to be used in some mysterious way in the spying operation. According to the lawyer, it was just a group of people who liked each other’s company and met often. The charges are allegedly based on witness accounts and evidence seized during a house search, but Kertész couldn’t find anything concrete that would prove his client’s guilt. The court decided on preventive custody because apparently Maxin while handcuffed tried to escape. That was at the beginning of December.

Otherwise, from what I could learn about Maxin, I got the distinct impression that he was on good terms with Fidesz politicians for many years. In 2005 he turned to Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt for an investigation into the privatization of Budapest Airport Rt. We can’t go into the complicated details of the case here, but at that time the government handed over the running of the Ferihegy Airport to a private company. Viktor Orbán, who at that point was pretty certain that he would win the election in 2006, delivered a speech in which he announced that “we must buy back what [the present government] illegally privatized.” And if the privatization turned out to be legal, then his government would simply “ask the owners: be kind enough to give it back.” I suspect that Maxin’s curiosity about the exact status of Budapest Airport Rt. was connected to Orbán’s preoccupation with the ownership of the company.

In addition to this early link with Fidesz, Átlátszó has documents in its possession that prove a connection between Maxin and several important leaders of Fidelitas, Fidesz’s youth organization, through a foundation called “Fiatalok a Demokráciáért” (Youth for Democracy). Among the members of the foundation were Bence Rétvári, today undersecretary in the ministry of human resources, and the young Péter Szijjártó, today foreign minister.

444.hu turned to the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, wanting to know more about the case. The answer came in the form of a short note signed by Elizabeth Webster, spokeswoman of the embassy: “As is known the US government doesn’t comment on cases still under legal scrutiny. We don’t comment on conjectures concerning intelligence work.” I wonder what Viktor Orbán has in mind because surely the NNI, the police, and the prosecutors couldn’t possibly start criminal proceedings against two individuals, charging them with espionage for the United States, without the approval of Viktor Orbán himself.

If Maxin’s lawyer is correct and the alleged crime was committed in 2008, why did the Orbán government wait until December 2015 to begin criminal proceedings against these two men? If they knew that Butka, Maxin’s alleged accomplice, was involved in espionage work, why did he occupy a high-level position in the prime minister’s office? These are just a few of the many questions that nobody can answer at the moment, but I suspect that this case is in some way payback for the United States’ annoying habit of inquiring about corruption cases that the Hungarian government either ignores or whitewashes.

March 1, 2016
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Guest

Honestly this government looks increasingly like a weird amalgam of the Horthy and Rákosi regimes.

Perhaps, this time at least, In the international situation is intensifying.

Guest

Have no idea on the spies and spying though there just has to be a bunch of people who view the US right now as persona non grata. FIFA, due to US efforts, got a big clear out of the ‘old boy’ crony network in things futbol where most everything was for sale. An institution where corruption reigned supreme. Could have been ‘heartbreaking’ for some whom we know as futbol aficionados who perhaps dreamed a dreamy lucrative future with a now gone deep-sixed FIFA.

webber
Guest

All countries spy on one another – allies and enemies alike. This has been going on for centuries. Everyone knows it. If the US does not “collect information” in Hungary, the State Dept. is not doing its job. If Hungary does not “collect information” in the US, the Foreign Min. is not doing its job.
This whole affair looks like a Putin set-up.
My conclusion: Hungary should be ejected from NATO.

Guest

@webber
Today 3:59 am

:-)))

I have been saying that for ages. And from the EU, too. Let Orbanistan stew in its own juices in the lap of Mother Russia. No perceptible loss whatsoever, either for NATO or for the EU, if anything a huge gain, one less headache to worry about..

Guest

I actually think that Slovenia and Slovakia should be the Balkan borderlands of contiguous NATO, EU and Schengen zone territories. Greece and Hungary should be energetically encouraged to exit all three associations, and Europe and the Americans ought to forget about getting into bed with any of the rest of the Balkan countries in between. Getting into bed with the Greece, Hungary and the rest of the Balkans is just buying into endless headaches at great cost and meager returns. Anyway, NATO is not worth tuppence these days, and overflight arrangements or the establishment of bases can always be negotiated on a case by case basis with individual Balkan countries as and when needed.

Guest

Re: Russia , Magyarorszag and NATO

On the ‘setup’ boy I missed that. And then had to think:

‘There are three of them and Alleline’. A line spoken by ‘Control, head spy guy for the Brits in LeCarre’s ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ , noting the presence of moles in the spy service. No doubt the thinking is always alive and working across the intelligence triumvirate.

Probably a nice mix of Russian and Magyar ‘Polyakovs’ burrowing in the NATO caves . Hopefully the latter is aware of possibly tainted ‘Witchcraft’ stuff from their ‘ally’ and its walls are full of ‘bugs’. For ‘nothing is as it seems’. And for the US with supposed ‘friends’ like Magyarorszag who needs more enemies?

Best to follow the centuries old advice from “Epitoma Rei Militaris,” by Vegetius (Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus):

“Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.”

“If you wish peace prepare for war’.

George Smiley, that ‘quiet’ old coot of a spymaster , would agree. And NATO too will no doubt will never ever forget it.

petofi
Guest

Tinker, Tailor….

One of my favorite films. Great script; phenomenal acting; peerless direction and editing. I’ve seen it about 8 times and watch it all over again whenever it is on the telly.

Guest

Me too. One of the finest tv adaptations of a fine author’s work. Mr. LeCarre just nails the spy business so well. Curious if he ever traveled to Eastern Europe and particularly Hungary. I figure he had to have known say a ‘Toby Esterhase’. I think he was a ‘lamplighter’. Oh the stories he could perhaps tell.

Alonso Mosley
Guest

It was probably a good Putin set up, I agree.

Poor Americans thought they could finally recruit assets (the Americans are great in sigint but extremely poor in humint, whereas the KGB is the master of humint) only to finally realize that the assets were petty con men thrown to them as a bait so that when the political situation so dictated they and the American machinations could be uncovered in the media.

Pretty usual staff under communism and in the Middle East days these I guess.

I’m sure Orban and his Hungarian and Russian advisors are having a lot of fun with this story. I’m sure some state security people will get promoted.

webber
Guest

“Another charge is that Maxin in 2010, in a conversation with a member of the visiting IMF delegation, warned him about structuring the organization’s loan in such a way that no government could appropriate money given to the country as a whole.”
In what way, and where is this a crime? I can’t think of a single law in Hungary that bans giving advice. Moreover, this advice, apparently, was just on how to avert the misappropriation of funds. That is, I believe, in complete harmony with Hungarian law, is it not?

jog
Guest

Isn’t the name Maxim or Makszim (it’s pretty common in Russia).

https://www.linkedin.com/in/norbert-makszim-44368952?trk=pub-pbmap

Guest

Those names may be common in Russia but Norbert isn’t in the US. Very uncommon I’d say. Great name for ‘cover’. Norbert. Conjures well for me a guy who has about 15 macskas running around his house….;-)….

Guest

Actually Norbert (north bright …) is a quite popular old Germanic name, now also popular in Hungary and Slovakia …
One of my nephews proudly wears it!

Guest

Interesting. Anything going with the name ‘Connie?
Every time I hear that paired with ‘Mack’ I always think of baseball and the Phillies!

Oorrbbaann
Guest

The philosopher TGM had a good point.

This spy story broke last week when the teacher revolt had been the most important issue in the media for weeks.

Then the figure/meme of the “American spy”was thrown in, like it was 1952 again.

Somehow Hungarian politics and especially the old school state security people Orban loves so much (whoops, could it be that he himself was recruited at one time?) can’t get rid of this meme, this obsession.

Never mind that Hungary is an ally of US, in the eyes of the Hungarian state security US is still enemy no. 1.

Russia is a friend or rather Russia has penetrated the Hungarian security and political establishment to such a degree that it is really just an extended arm of the Russian siliviki establishment.

Guest

@Oorrbbaann
Today 5:15 am

Hungary an ally of America? The country that specializes in backstabbing and biting the hand that feeds it? And in defense and economic terms about the equivalent of the mouse that roared? What a joke!!

:-)))

Rpott7774
Guest

My suspicion is that these people were petty double agents and now they are being used by Orban to annoy the Americans. The legal case seems to be totally baseless, but in spy cases that’s the norm.

Why would a person like Maxin or Maxim talk to any IMF people unless specifically sent there to talk to them (to gain “intel”)?

I’m sure the Hungarian state security just like under communism watches the IMF like crazy. Nothing changes.

Guest

Rpott7774
Today 5:33 am

That is quite probable. Good point.

petofi
Guest

So, Makszin spoke to IMF people against members of his own government and country? Yeah. I’ll believe that when they start growing corn before the parliament. More likely that he was sent to
present himself as someone to trust, and perhaps ‘buy’, so that some action can be begun in the future against the IMF. That sounds like Hungary…or Russia and the KGB…

Guest

@petofi
Today 5:52 am

Yeah, you are quite probably right. But I can see delicious humour in the mouse that roared swinging into action against the IMF. Like the flea on an elephant’s back beating its breast and boasting about swinging into action against the elephant. If I were the IMF, I would just tell Hungary to go f*ck off and take a Valium.

:-))

Guest

I actually think that Slovenia and Slovakia should be the Balkan borderlands of contiguous NATO, EU and the Schengen zone territories. Greece and Hungary should be energetically encouraged to exit all three associations, and Europe and the Americans ought to forget about getting into bed with any of the rest of the Balkan countries in between. Getting into bed with the Greece, Hungary and the rest of the Balkans is just buying endless headaches at great cost and meager returns. Anyway, NATO is not worth tuppence these days, and overflight arrangements or the establishment of bases can always be negotiated on a case by case basis with individual Balkan countries as and when needed.

Guest

Sorry, the above was not meant to be inserted here. Has now been copied and pasted with some corrections under [ambalint Today 6:22 am] above.

CsehSzlovak
Guest

But Orban and the state security (whether in Budapest or in Moscow) will never have more fun than when these poor people will arrive to Budapest and rural Hungary.

Now that’s when the real fun will begin.

Forget about the teachers and the looting of a billion euros just out of the Central Bank, nobody will give a shit when the Muslims start “raping” young Hungarians and defecting on the streets (obviously no extra public toilets will be provided).

Time is on Orban’s and Putin’s side, I am afraid.

http://index.hu/kulfold/2016/03/02/menekultek_migransok_europa_magyarorszag/

Guest
@CsehSzlovak Today 6:49 am To my mind it is a complete farce (kész cirkusz) to allocate a quota of refugees and economic migrants to Hungary. Instead, Brussels should kick Hungary out of the EU and the Schengen Zone, and save itself a heck of a lot of headaches. Over decades and centuries the deeply xenophobic and antisemitic Hungarians have proved themselves to be totally incapable of integrating the “other,” even when they were Hungarian speaking Roma or Jews who really are just ordinary Hungarians for all intents and purposes, and one need not be a prophet to realize just what an almighty mess they would inevitably make make of any attempts to integrate Middle Eastern and Central Asian Moslems into the Hungarian “Nation,” particularly after having been deliberately and massively stirred up and turned against these potential newcomers during the past year or two. The current farcical state of affairs is the consequence of the inherently conflicting political interests and value systems of the membership of the Brussels Tower of Babel, where the deep political and economic fault lines that divide the members make the EU and the Schengen Zone as they are constituted today a completely unworkable Heath Robinson… Read more »
Guest

And of course I omitted to mention after my para 2 that refugees and economic migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia allocated to Hungary will stay about to seconds in Hungary, since under the Schengen rules, they would be able to move on to greener pastures in the West and North any time they pleased. This is the other side of the farce.

Guest

correction: “. . . will stay about TWO seconds in Hungary . . . “

petofi
Guest

They’ve already ‘defected’…they’re now ready to defecate…

webber
Guest

OT – The Hungarian government is compiling lists of students who stayed out of school on Monday in a sign of solidarity with teachers demanding changes. The government is taking care not to include students who were ill on the lists – only those who were out of school with their parents’ approval. God knows what they plan to do with those lists, or to the students on it, or to their parents. Whatever it is, it can’t be anything good.
News here:
http://index.hu/belfold/2016/03/02/nyomozza_a_klik_hogy_ki_nem_volt_iskolaban/

webber
Guest
Reality Check
Guest

They may not do anything with the list. The goal is to intimidate. Simply making that list achieves that goal.

zöldecske
Guest

Just updating the voter’s data base. Fidesz can target them better. Of course the known leftists are irrelevant as they are not targeted by Fidesz.

This means that a subset of people can ascertained from the data who were previously Fidesz voters but who are now doubting Fidesz and perhaps wavering. It’s useful to know. The left-wing would kill for such data but they have nothing.

Guest

Such lists could be extremely useful for the DEMOP (democratic opposition). They should get hold of them or make their own.

Member
I think Orban just does his best with what he does best, distracting. I mean, really is this so important? The Hungarian National Bank’s financial data cannot be accessed any more. Same with the Hungarian Post financial data. Budapest lost $ 1.1 billion on Orban acquired 21 percent of Mol Nyrt. from Russia’s Surgutneftegas. Orban’s wife’s vinery was just awarded billion forints of state money. Orban’s daughter w/o as much as an MBA became a teacher in a Hungarian university. Orban tells Hungarians about their right to vote on the immigration quota while signs the documents in the EU. Hungarian movie wins the Oscar and antisemitism swings in to full gear on Vona’s Facebook page w/o any reaction from the government. several thousands of Hungarian students did not go to school to support their teachers, and the member of the Hungarian government accuses one of the teachers for working from some communist agenda… Those are the issues that Orban tries to take away the attention of Hungarians. This is the tactic he have been using for decades, and you know what? It seems to be working. There are a group of mad man running Hungary, cooperating with one of the… Read more »
webber
Guest

I agree with everything you wrote except your last two sentences – particularly the penultimate one starting with “It seems to be working…”
People seem to be noticing some things the govt. wants to hide.
Latest poll data – 60% of Hungarians say the country is going in the wrong direction.
73% of Hungarians want the country to stay in the EU. A whopping 78% of Fidesz supporters do too (Jobbik supporters account for the lower overall percentatge).
Data shows fewer and fewer people support Fidesz – only 32% of the total population says it does now, and that percentage is falling.
Poll report here:
http://hvg.hu/itthon/201610_torespont

petofi
Guest

Percentages mean nothing to Viktor the O. Look at Sunday shopping: people must be 90% in favour. Does that ruffle
the Pava’s feathers?

petofi
Guest

People don’t seem to understand: the mules who work for Viktor are in it for the mullah; Viktor (having cashed in the axe-man a long time ago) is in it for the maximal pain he can exert…sic transit madness.

Member

You are right. What I mean is that so far it did work and they resort to the same tactics. Yes, people catching up.

Guest

@webber
Today 8:55 am

What counts is what happens when the rubber hits the asphalt in 2018, namely whether the voting patterns will actually reflect this trend in the nxt general elections. And what the democratic opposition does or can do or should do to capitalize on this apparent landslide in public opinion in their direction. That is the bottom line.

petofi
Guest

The Hungarian Post in action: I mailed a registered letter to the states…It arrived 5 WEEKS later. Some service!

webber
Guest

Be kind. It takes time for the services to examine your letter. They’ve got a huge backlog of work (I’m not kidding).

Imre
Guest

I also received my package from the US 2 months later than what’s normal.

Magyar Posta denied having taken the package over from its European partners, who claimed they had handed it over.

The package probably sat for at least 2 months at Magyar Posta and was visibly opened.

Luckily, nothing was missing though. I don’t get it, why this craziness of opening packages? Are we living in the 1950’s or what? What’s the Hungarian state security afraid of?

Guest

Just got this crazy news – is this true or a bad joke?
Owners of SUVs and minibuses are being told to register their vehicles with the armed forces, Népszava reports. If the armed forces need the vehicles, their owners will be forced to hand them over.

In addition, the owners will be required to provide data about their vehicles on a regular basis.

Those who do not respond to the letters of notification from the army could be heavily fined up to Ft 1 million.
Unbelievable!

http://www.xpatloop.com/news/83793

webber
Guest

True. It’s been in the Hungarian news for a couple of days.

Observer
Guest

“A nemzetközi helyzet….”
The international threat intensifies.. Hungary is under attack from (enter enemy of the day)..
But our valiant Leader stands up to the rotten West, which iscontrolled by (you know who), and all is mobilized to fight under his wise leadership and he is winning and we love him…

Sounds familiar? Surely to those with knowledge of the commi world circa 50s.
What a circle the dupes tracked!

Guest

@Observer
Today 2:56 pm

Simply disgusting.

Guest

Hungary today seems to have become a veritable Orwellian Animal Farm: with the pigs in charge (Orbán & Co.), the attack dogs (TEK and the Praetorian Guards of Kövér and Matolcsy), then the sheep and the rest of the farm animals (the Hungarian electorate).

petofi
Guest

This comment doesn’t belong here, but it is interesting: the rationale for all those soccer stadiums is the development of Hungarian soccer talent. With transfer fees for top players at 40-70 million euros, it takes only a success or two every few years for a Hungarian team to be a major financial success. Since Viktor the Magnificent has set it up that tax dollars finance the playing stadiums…I daresay that the Felcsutian master has forged agreements with soccer clubs to receive a behind-the-scenes payment of, say, 20% of the take. Clever stuff: a business financed by tax dollars, and reaping the benefits privately–Matolcsynesque, wouldn’t you say?

Hajra Magyarok!
(And remember to keep your eye on the pea…)

Istvan
Guest

I am concerned for Hungarian military officers who have attended the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA and written reports and papers on the situation of integration of Hungarian forces into NATO using extensive documentation for academic purposes relating to their Master of Strategic Studies degree or the Strategic Studies Institute. This case is deeply disturbing to me because I have reviewed a few of these papers and met some of the officers who in no cases ever would have considered sharing Hungary’s NATO related material as spying on their nation. Conceptually this case is disgusting and reminds me of Stalinist purges of the Red Army at the start of WWII.

Member
Re. IMF… an utter nonsense. As we all know, IMF closed his Budapest office in 2013. The IMF, through the EU, knows more about Hungary than they ever needed. If anyone spied well for IMF, it would have known that the great leader was just buying time. Instead, they made fool of the IMF, the EU COM and the rest of the financial word. I would say an unusual (or an unorthodox) way to do business in this environment. That could change only when Hungary needed international money again. However, that is exactly what the government wanted to avoid by all costs. High costs, I would say. The IMF does not have a clandestine service per se, but it does not stop countries represented in it to deploy or employ officials working there. (Several Hungarian names pops up in my mind from the good ol’ days of socialism, one of them was Ambassador to Washington DC just recently.) I am not sure if this case has anything to do with the recent yearly visit of the IMF delegation, given that its report was generally favorable or balanced for the government of Hungary. http://24.hu/fn/gazdasag/2016/02/16/dicserte-es-biralta-a-kormanyt-az-imf/ On the other side, Polygon Informatics Kft.… Read more »
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