The latest revelations in the Roland Mengyi case

People unfamiliar with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary might think that I’m spending far too much time on the case of Roland Mengyi, a Fidesz MP. So what, they might say. They caught a politician who is a crook. Happens in the best of countries. What’s the big fuss?

Well, that’s not how things work in Hungary. The Orbán government has been in power for more than six years, during which the independent media reported on a raft of suspicious cases. Not once did the “independent” prosecutor’s office ask the president of the parliament to initiate proceedings to suspend a Fidesz MP’s immunity, even when such a request was warranted.

Yes, Hungary’s chief prosecutor is independent in the sense that he and his office are not subordinated to the ministry of justice, unlike in most European countries or the United States. That was not the case between 1867 and 1949. The prosecutor’s office was the judicial arm of the state. After 1990 a restoration of the old system was briefly discussed and rejected, for fear of government interference in the judiciary. Thus, Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt, an important ally of Viktor Orbán, is responsible to no one except, of course unofficially, the prime minister. He is a man of immense responsibility and power. He could theoretically topple Orbán’s corrupt regime or, being a faithful servant, keep it in power by burying all the embarrassing and even politically lethal cases.

Very often the prosecutor’s office doesn’t even start an investigation of cases reported to the police. In a few bigger cases they begin an investigation but the prosecutors find the cases too weak to go any further and drop them. Then, there are those cases when the prosecutor’s allegations are so poorly worded that the judges have no recourse but to acquit the accused.

The Mengyi case is testing the “see no evil” prosecutorial system. Péter Polt was forced to act. He had no choice once 168 Óra released the third installment of the story of Roland Mengyi and his accomplices. It reported that the National Tax and Customs Administration has a video on which one can see two of the accused men handing Mengyi a small plastic bag that might have contained the 5 million forints Mengyi demanded from them. An hour after this information hit the newsstands Polt wrote to László Kövér requesting that Mengyi’s immunity be lifted.

Mama Rosa, Italian restaurant, where the Roland Mengyi allegedly received the money

Mama Rosa, the Italian restaurant in Tiszaújváros, where Roland Mengyi allegedly received 5 million forints in cash

In this post I will concentrate on what we learned from the third installment of Attila Rajnai’s series on the Mengyi case, but before that I will try to clarify why the National Tax and Customs Administration/NAV is involved in this case since it has nothing whatsoever to do with tax fraud.

Initially, NAV was not investigating Mengyi but Márta F. of Tiszaújváros, an accountant whom the NAV investigators suspected of being involved in tax fraud by gaming the special tax status of employees of social cooperatives. These employees, who are disadvantaged, pay lower taxes and have lower social benefits payroll deductions than employees of ordinary businesses. Márta F.’s scheme was to change the status of employees of ordinary businesses to social cooperative employees. The scheme worked this way. The worker was let go by his employer and immediately hired by one of the social cooperatives, but in reality he worked in his old workplace except that his employer now hired him as a social cooperative worker with a reduced tax burden. Márta F. was apparently arranging these switches in status in such huge numbers that NAV investigators became suspicious and began their surveillance of her activities. Mengyi’s bad luck was that Tibor B. and Zsolt E., the two friends who turned to Mengyi for help, got in touch with Márta F., who was known as an expert in setting up social cooperatives. Thus their conversations with Márta F. were also recorded. These conversations prompted a second investigation that led to Mengyi.

So, what did the public learn from 168 Óra’s third installment? Plenty. One important piece of information is that if NAV investigators find a political thread in the course of their investigation, they have to report the case immediately to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office can then, if the chief prosecutor so desires, stop the investigation altogether. In fact, Rajnai is aware of an earlier case where an important business partner of one of Viktor Orbán’s oligarchs was in trouble with NAV but the prosecutor’s office stopped the investigation. It is quite possible that the same thing happened in the Mengyi case because just when the investigators were ready to arrest the Fidesz MP, their superiors refused to give them permission to proceed.

Of course, the newly appointed NAV president, András Tállai, might have put an end to the investigation, especially since in one of the conversations Péter K., the middle man between Mengyi and the two applicants for the grant, tries to quell their fears by telling them not to worry because András Tállai and Roland Mengyi are “on very good terms.”

The other revelation of this third installment is that last fall someone in the ministry of human resources told Péter K. that NAV investigators had paid a visit to the ministry and that they should be careful because their telephone calls are being monitored. At the moment we don’t know who that person was, but Rajnai suspects that his name is known to the prosecutors. Because revealing such information to subjects of an investigation is a crime, this person is probably also in trouble.

As the network of corruption expands, another possible culprit is the owner of Public Sector Consulting Kft. (KSC), Sándor Holbok, whom I described earlier as an “ősfideszes” or “primordial member” of the party. Although at the moment only Szilvia B., an employee of the company, is in jail, Holbok was most likely fully aware of what was going on in the firm. In one of the conversations one can hear that Mengyi is in negotiation with the owner of KSC, discussing the financial details, meaning who will receive what portion of the 600 million.

Whoever interfered at the level of the ministry saved Mengyi from a much more serious charge. The tender was rewritten, and therefore the deal couldn’t proceed. As it stands, Mengyi and his co-conspirators are accused only of attempted fraud.

Now it is up to Péter Polt to contain the investigation to the smallest possible circle. If the investigation goes much further, it could reach high officials in the ministry of human resources and perhaps even in the prime minister’s office. After all, there are rumors that even undersecretaries might be part of the conspiracy to illegally acquire EU money. Szilvia B. talked about her close relationship with Nándor Csepreghy, deputy of János Lázár. I’m sure that Polt will do his best as usual. Maybe the whole thing will peter out and Roland Mengyi will be the only one who is charged. And if Mengyi is deemed to be critically important to the party, the prosecutor’s office will probably prepare a case so full of holes that he will get off.

August 20, 2016
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Member

“I’m sure that Polt will do his best as usual. Maybe the whole thing will peter out..”

What a word play, haha..!

I have been waiting for the collapse of this whole card of house from the beginning. Somewhen, somehow it is supposed to happen. Crime of the size can not be hidden for long. This seems to be the most effective way of getting rid of this mafia.

Member

house of cards I mean…

Guest

Re: ‘responsible to no one except, of course unofficially, the prime minister’

And who it seems where ‘the law’ emanates and shines from according to the prosecutor’s actions in the face of corruption and misdeeds. Mr. Polt would appear to be a very good ‘interpreter’ of the the juduciary’s position vs the exec and legislative branches in VO’s teflon government. Polt, in a veritable total power position, makes a government virtually sculpt anything it wants. The laws that exist would appear to be a sham.

petofi
Guest

Hungary is the shame of the civilized world.

It’s frightening to contemplate how easily a once-civilized society–though this can be argued, too–could backtrack to norms and practices of hundreds of years earlier…

The ‘veneer of civility’ is nowhere thinner than in Hungary, and on Hungaricoes-

petofi
Guest

In years to come, the teflon-Hungarians will claim that Soros, the Jews, and the EU kept VO in power to keep the god-fearing
Christians down…I kid you not.

Alex Kuli
Guest

Spreading that rumor might be a great way for the opposition to win votes in 2018.

webber
Guest

sorry, no thanks. There are limits.
That’s the sort of thing Trump’s advisers have been suggesting he do.
Seen his poll numbers lately?

petofi
Guest

Yes, Trump is +2 in one poll. On other reports, swing states are tilting to Hillary.
So who knows. Drudgereport, which gets about 1.5 billion hits a year, is a right wing rag that doesn’t mind putting out misleading info during elections as it did during 2012.

Istvan
Guest
Off topic but related to Eva’s admonishment about cheap shoots taken and very generalized comments posted on the loser nature of Hungary yesterday. Gergely Csurka has an interesting article on Hungarian performance at the Olympics about the Hungarian losing syndrome http://nol.hu/sport/teher-alatt-reccsen-1628449 Really the count is amazing for Hungary, 15 in total by my count. Romania has only 4, Bulgaria has only two, Austria only one. It is incredibly difficult for smaller nations to compete with massive nations like China, USA, and Russia even with its drug scandal. The mass of the talent pool available makes it statistically impossible for smaller nations to over come in big edge massive nations have the summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics are different due to the more restricted nature of the sports. One thing that is so obvious to me is that those of us here in the USA with higher incomes and companies for PR reasons economically support Olympic sports and we look to governmental structures less for funding. In Europe, especially Central Europe it is seen much more as a state sponsored project. So for example I give money yearly to USA shooting sports via USA Shooting, a 501c3 non-profit corporation and I… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Vian
This is no house of cards, this is a very real and very corrupt dictatorship; many such ones lasted for several decades. It will not outlast Orbán, so if God, the all merciful, decides to rid the Hungarians from this scourge earlier that will be the end of the regime.
(Térdre, imára)

My bet is that a long investigation will produce a lone defendant, who will get a light sentence and even if he serves some time it will be short. He will be appropriately compensated and will quietly be placed as a head of some institute or foundation to ensure comfortable life on taxpayers’ expense, of course. He won’t be the first.

Guest

What I don’t understand is how come investigative reporting seems so alive and robustly thriving in Orbán’s Hungary.

Is this a sign of pathetic incompetence on the part of the Fidesz hegemonists, or too many crimes of corruption happening at the same time to keep the lid on, or of some sly and arcane media stratagem serving Fidesz’s political purposes?

Looks like Orbán still has a great deal to learn from Putin, who would have peremptorily shut down the paper (168 Óra) the moment he would have got wind of what they were intending to publish, and meantime the search would still be on for the journalist’s body who would’ve mysteriously “disappeared” before any more of his “indiscretions” could see light in the printed media.

Guest

Or – is it a sign of behind the scenes factional infighting within Fidesz, where party discipline is merely a veneer, and where some given party faction is happy to sell out some other faction to the tender mercies of some investigative reporter, who in turn will enjoy factional protection for their muckraking?

Anyway, what is certain is that seemingly thriving investigative reporting in Hungary is neither a sign of a healthy civil society, nor a sign of a civilized media culture, because in Hungary’s slimy and greasy case we can be sure that there is always profound crookedness, chicanery, duplicity and deceit behind the appearances.

webber
Guest

We can only wait and see.
Polt, Fidesz’s prosecutor, has a habit of investigating such cases for so very long that the statute of limitations expires before the case gets to court. When challenged, Polt says that people must understand that these cases are very complicated and proper investigation takes a long time.
By contrast, whenever an opposition figure has been accused, Polt slamsthe accused into preliminary custody – sometimes imprisoning them for years and years while investigation goes on – after which, often enough, the accused person is found innocent by the courts (for instance, the generals’ trials).

Guest

Re: ‘Or – is it a sign of behind the scenes factional infighting within Fidesz, where party discipline is merely a veneer, and where some given party faction is happy to sell out some other faction to the tender mercies of some investigative reporter, who in turn will enjoy factional protection for their muckraking’

You know it is very probable that competition between ‘bureaus’ is certainly going on in the government. The type of system we see no doubt is built on it and encouraged. Competition for influence and setting political narratives is always in the game. There’s method to the apparent madness.

And Polt dealing with cases that are complicated and being investigated for so long and all that investigative reporting going on and ‘nothing’ happens. Looks to me the fellow is overworked. Parliament should give him assistants in his office. But this could be feared as a possible Becket could emerge to challenge Poltian almost total power. Thus a Putinian solution….. don’t even think about it.

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