The fate of a journalist, Gergely Brückner, who told the truth

Népszabadság is not the only Hungarian publication that has been harassed by the authorities, although its shutdown on October 8 was the Orbán government’s bluntest attack on the Hungarian media. Shortly after the destruction of Népszabadság came an assault on a journalist who had investigated one of the Orbán government’s dubious financial transactions. This time the Hungarian National Bank “filed a complaint against an unknown perpetrator,” actually Gergely Brückner, a highly regarded journalist at Figyelő (Observer), a financial weekly whose most important articles are unfortunately not available online. Kolos Kardkovács, head of the central bank’s legal department, filed charges against him for “infringement of trade secrets” in connection with the purchase of MKB Bank. The article Kardkovács objected to appeared in Figyelő’s very first issue in January 2015.

Let’s backtrack a bit to mid-December 2014 when I wrote a post titled “The first state-owned Hungarian bank is already in trouble.” MKB Bank was supposed to be sound since its former owner, Bayerische Landesbank, prior to the sale pumped 270 million euros into it. This was supposed to be enough to cover all possible losses over the following few months. Government officials were sure that the bank would be profitable by 2016 “at the latest” and that “the reorganization of MKB Bank will not burden either the state or the taxpayers.” Yet three months later Viktor Orbán and György Matolcsy, at a joint press conference, said that 300 billion forints are urgently needed to keep MKB Bank afloat. Orbán announced that since “the consolidation of MKB Bank will be done by the Hungarian National Bank, it will not cost the budget or the Hungarian taxpayers anything.” The same lie that was used to justify the establishment of the central bank’s foundations.

Between September and December 2014 Brückner gathered background information for a series of articles on the less than transparent purchase of MKB Bank. During 2015 and 2016  he published at least a dozen articles on the reorganization and eventual sale of MKB Bank to several investors of, again, less than transparent identity.

The decision of the National Bank to file charges against him, however, is based on a single sentence from his initial reporting. The sentence reads: “Our paper has learned that shortly after Lázár became the owner [of MKB Bank] he received a letter from Matolcsy in which the bank president indicated that even in the short term tens of billions of forints will be necessary in order to avoid bankruptcy and that may not be the end of the reckoning [cech]. (Our sources talk about 75 billion forints and later another 200 billion capital increase).” The Hungarian National Bank never denied any of the information provided by Brückner about MKB Bank. They never asked for a correction. Nothing. But suddenly, 22 months later, they discovered that Brückner is guilty of the infringement of business secrets.

Gergely Brückner

Gergely Brückner

Brückner did what a good journalist should. He pointed out that the purchase of MKB Bank was a very bad deal, for which the Hungarian taxpayers have paid dearly ever since September 2014. Whoever sealed the deal either didn’t exercise due diligence or, what in my opinion is more likely, Viktor Orbán was so eager to acquire a foreign-owned bank and transform it into a bank which would eventually be in Hungarian hands that he simply didn’t care about the exorbitant amount of money it would take “to reorganize” it.

The policemen who questioned Brückner demanded that he reveal his sources, which he refused to do. Later he said that in fact he no longer remembers who his source was for this particular piece of information. He had conversations with at least 15 men and women who had information about the case both in Hungary and in Bavaria. He didn’t think this sentence was of any great significance and therefore paid no special attention to it. It was the overall picture that interested him, that the purchase of MKB Bank was a very bad business deal.

This case is yet another example of the warped legal system in Hungary and of the government’s attempt to clamp down on media criticism. Although scores of people have filed complaints in connection with the shady affairs of Antal Rogán and György Matolcsy, neither the police nor the prosecutors move a finger. Their usual answer is that there is no reason to investigate. But if a journalist accurately reports on a disastrous bank purchase, the police are ready to jump and insist that he reveal his sources, which according to current Hungarian law are protected. We don’t yet know whether the investigative judge will decide to go forward with the case.

János Lázár, who can quite often surprise us, once again did so in this case. Last Thursday at his usual press conference he expressed his disapproval of harassing journalists, pressuring them to reveal their sources. I think it’s safe to assume that he was not himself the source; that is, he presumably did not make public the letter he received from Matolcsy. But the information must have come either from his office or from Matolcsy’s, perhaps too close for comfort.

How badly have Hungarian taxpayers been burned by the deal? It had to be a colossal loss. The bank into which 300 billion forints was poured, over and above the 35 billion purchase price, was sold in March 2016 for 37 billion forints. It was sold to a consortium of domestic and foreign equity funds, with Hungarian owners getting a majority stake. One member of this consortium is a Hungarian private equity fund called Metis, which will have a 45% stake in MKB Bank. Metis was launched only recently with a registered capital of 100 million euros. The other prominent member is Blue Robin Investments SCA, whose owners are apparently Indian and Chinese investors. It will also own 45% of the bank. A Hungarian pension fund will hold the remaining 10% of the shares.

By July Brückner learned that “the most important and real owner” behind Metis is László Szíjj, owner of Duna Aszfalt, which people usually refer to nowadays as the new Közgép. Közgép was Lajos Simicska’s firm, which in the past used to receive most of the government contracts. Now that Simicska is one of the chief enemies of Viktor Orbán, his place has been filled by a number of oligarchs, one of whom is Szíjj.

One more thing about Figyelő. Although the weekly is profitable, it is up for sale because of an acrimonious ownership dispute that has been going on for about two years. The journalists who work at the weekly are almost certain that the new owner will be Mária Schmidt, the court historian and director of the House of Terror who became a very wealthy woman after the unexpected early death of her husband. If Schmidt does indeed become the owner, I’m sure Gergely Brückner will quickly become “redundant.”

November 1, 2016
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csikós
Guest

“János Lázár, who can quite often surprise us, once again did so in this case. ”

Lazar has this image of a quasi-maverick. The image of the top Fidesznik who dares to be self-critical, even understanding of liberal, centrist views. But this is only his image. (Since he is also a government spokesperson he has an interest not to be hated by journalists.) But he is just as a loyal and corrupt Fidesznik as anybody from Rogan, Sesztak to Habony and Matolcsy.

Also Figyelő in the last few months has been consistently publishing pro-Fidesz articles, gave regular space to top Fideszniks etc. The paper itself may or may not have been sold, but the editors sure knew that a pro-Fidesz change was imminent.

Member

Exactly. Lazar is a shill. The only difference between a shill and a troll (like “PPP”) — “The way such trolls keep you in their thrall is to freely sprinkle their postings with fodder that appears to agree with you, and with truth, goodness and light. That’s the hook with which they then inject their poison…” — is that a shill is not anonymous.

Guest

Lázár aka Laser Johnny is one of the not so well liked guys – remember his very expensive sports Audi with the anti-speed-laser gimmick?

Observer
Guest

Lázár is probably the smartest top aparatchicks, AND he has been building his local power base in Mezőhadvásárhely. I don’t know how ordinary Hungarians take his pretty shiny and smug image against the rising poverty in H.

I wonder how come Orban has not demoted him already, but there was this joint private visit, wives included, to Switzerland a couple of years ago. Who knows, if they were signing bank account signature specimens, then there is a MAD situation, just like in the case of Simicska, small conventional battles, but no nukes.

bimbi
Guest

The invitation at the end of this post blog is: “Leave a Reply”.

The post itself was entitled: “40 Comments on “The fate of a journalist, Gergely Brückner, who told the truth”” yet out of the 40 comments there is not a single one that actually comments on the subject of the piece!

What is going on here? Gergely Brückner is about to be screwed big-time by the corrupt and utterly partisan (because deeply involved) government judicial process and no one can say Ook Muk Fuk in the guy’s defense – no one even mentions his name!

Are we Hungarian Spectrum readers so inured to the every-day base fraud and corruption of the Orban government that we can’t even raise a comment about it any more? Jeszuszom!

Guest

“The post itself was entitled: “40 Comments on “The fate of a journalist, Gergely Brückner, who told the truth”.

No, the title was “The fate of a journalist, Gergely Brückner, who told the truth”.

Several of the commenters who did not mention Brückner’s name were essentially doing the same thing as Brückner is prosecuted for. They exposed examples of heinous crimes committed by the Fidesz government.

Commenters on HS can’t help individuals who are singled out for anihilation by the government. Nobody can. There is no rule of law in Hungary.

Commenters sometimes take refuge in digressions and occasional irrelevant jokes. Without that the comment section would be unbearably sad.

Member

The new owners of MKB Bank (= Orban by proxy) gave billions of forints [of taxpayers’ money in fact !] to Pecina in the summer, in return for the brand names nol.hu & Nepszabadsag.

This deal was kept secret until September, when Pecina (VCP) used the money to buy PLT, then he exterminated Nepszabadsag as part of the deal and sold (Mediaworks+PLT) to Orban’s representative.

http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1108474-eladhatatlanna-tett-nepszabadsag—lemondott-a-kiado-vezerigazgatoja

To summarize, it was Orban [technically Matolcsy] who transformed more than $1 billion of public money into his own (by proxy) private money (inside MKB), and it was Orban who used part of this money to exterminate the largest opposition newspaper.

From the Hungarian National Bank
$1.0+ billion —-> Matolcsy’s foundations
$1.2+ billion —–> MKB Bank

International reserves of the National Bank:
2014-03-31: $49.756 billion
2016-09-30: $26.468 billion, DOWN 46.8% in 2 1/2 years !

http://www.mnb.hu/letoltes/hu0403-tartalek.xls

Member

Roll down the Excel table to see the series in $’s

Observer
Guest

I can’t believe this looting of the reserves, although I myself “predicted” this two years ago since there was no money left in any other single place in H.

I thought it will be more subtle, but this is what happens if the Orban kind puts his “right hand” in the public chest. Hajra dupes.

Member

“A group of 370 economists, including eight Nobel laureates in economics, have signed a letter warning against the election of Republican nominee Donald Trump, calling him a “dangerous, destructive choice” for the country.”

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/11/01/prominent-economists-including-eight-nobel-laureates-do-not-vote-for-donald-trump/

http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/EconomistLetter11012016.pdf

Member

“He has misled the [voters, public, electorate]” …. ,
“He has falsely suggested” …
“He promotes magical thinking and conspiracy theories over sober assessments of feasible economic policy options.”

“Donald Trump is a dangerous, destructive choice for the country. He misinforms the electorate, degrades trust in public institutions with conspiracy theories, and promotes willful delusion over engagement with reality”

Istvan
Guest

Yet many of my fellow Americans will vote for Trump. In a few days. There is no question that Sec Clinton has created this crisis for herself by attempting and repeatedly failing to hide numerous things. Most US citizens who will vote for Trump do not believe that the foundations of our admittedly flawed Republic can be undermined by him, that if he goes off the rails he will be checked. Racism is deep in the USA and it takes many forms, one them is the vote for Trump. I believe he is a threat to the foundations of our nation and I have already voted against him.

Meanwhile my beloved Chicago Cubs are in the final and deciding game of the baseball World Series tonight. My Hungarian immigrant gandfather became what was called back in the early 1900s a baseball bug, now called a fan, because he saw it as being very American. Our Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and this town is electric in anticipation of tonight’s game.

Guest

Good luck! After an exhausting couple of days house hunting I’ll be parked in front of the tv set to watch this one tonight. Going to be electric and no doubt thrilling.

Sometimes I wish all competition even in the political arena can take it as an example. Engage your best do your best and fight the fight. If you win all power to you. If you lose understand that you engaged in the thrill of competition throwing yourself heart and soul into the endeavor. It is there as well where satisfaction endures. So in a loss denigrating or cheapening an opponent is hack stuff. It truly is the way of losers. And haven’t we looked upon this state of affairs here on these pages which show examples relentlessly?

Member

Official statement given to a semi-official “newspaper” on October 30, published on November 2:

Ghaith Pharaon is currently not in Hungary and he does not live here regularly [életvitelszerűen].

http://magyaridok.hu/belfold/kontrat-pharaon-nincs-az-orszagban-1142671/

Member

Because this statement was published (even online !) only three days after it was made, my hunch is that Mr Pharaon left Hungary exactly in the [October 30, November 1] 3-day period.

Member

Joke stereotypes in Europe.

Moldovans —–> Romanians —–> Hungarians —–> Scots

English Irish
French Belgians
Spanish Portuguese
Germans Poles
Russians Ukrainians
Greeks Albanians
Norwegians Swedes
Czechs Slovaks

Bulgarians —-> Macedonians —–> Greeks
Turks —–> Greeks
Finns, Danish —–> Swedes
Lithuanians, Latvians —–> Estonians —–> Finns
Dutch —–> Belgians
Serbs, Croatians —–> Bosnians —–> Germans

Italians laugh at themselves! They must have regional stereotypes.

Member

WordPress suppressed the two-way arrows between [English, Irish] down to [Czechs, Slovaks]

Member

Swiss —-> Austrians —-> Germans

Most laughed-at people:

3: Swedes, Greeks, Germans
2: Belgians, Germans, Estonians, Bosnians

Member

No other people ridicule the happy countries of the Swiss, Dutch & Danes.

Guest

That’s not totally true- we people in the Black Forest have a lot of jokes about the Swiss, especially the people from Berne who are supposed to be not so quick. nor quick thinking.

Among my favourites:

One Swiis guy asks the other: What’s better? Xmas or sexual intercourse?
Answer: Sex is nice – but Xmas happens more often …

and
Two Swiss guys (from Bern presumably) are going for a walk – suddenly one guy lifts his shoe and squashes a snail!

The other asks: Why did you kill this innocent animal?
Answer: This beast has been chasing me all day!

And the standard joke about the Dutch:

If you don’t behave we’ll pull the plug and flood you!

Member

Thank you for improving the “joke stereotype” database !

webber
Guest

The Swedes make Danish jokes, and Belgians have Dutch jokes.
I believe there is no nation in the world that is not ridiculed by its neighbors.

Guest

You nailed it, Webber!

The funny thing is that the Swiss tell jokes about the Schwabs – and then you hear a German telling the same joke about a Pole and the Swede might make the same joke on his Danish neighbour …

PS and even more OT:
We Schwabs have been the target of many jokes – after we were thrown out of Scotland because we were too stingy!

If you can’t laugh at yourself then I’ll do it for you …

This text was on a t-shirt I bought for our young one …

Guest

“In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” ― Orson Welles.

Member

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe
K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics

comment image

https://elms.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/lexical-distance-among-languages-of-europe/

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