The Orbán government’s corruption unveiled by investigative journalists

Index published an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism on November 11, written by András Dezső, Szabolcs Panyi, and Nikita Hava. The first two reporters are well known for their hard-hitting stories about Jobbik and Fidesz. The third person, who appears on Facebook as Hava Nikita Vladimirovics, calls himself “egy ruszki Magyarországon.” He is well versed in Russian-Hungarian affairs.

The team has been looking into Antal Rogán’s shady business ventures for about a year. As we know, investigative journalism is an expensive affair and Hungarian media outlets are far too poor to undertake such ambitious projects on their own. But thanks to the financial assistance of Transparency International Magyarország and Független Médiaközpont (Independent Media Center), plus of course a lot of hard work, these three young journalists did a bang-up job. I should add that for the Georgian aspects of this complicated corruption case Tazo Kupreishvili, editor-in-chief of News.On.ge, assisted the Hungarian team.

The article is a detailed account of the close working relationship between Balázs Kertész, a lawyer who has been making a concerted effort to stay out of public view, and Antal Rogán, currently the number 3 man in the Orbán government. His job title, minister in charge of the prime minister’s cabinet office, is intentionally meaningless. His real task is to spend government money on Fidesz propaganda. He was responsible for funding the anti-immigrant campaign, including staging the referendum. Rogán has long been suspected of being corrupt. But between 2006 and 2014, when he was mayor of Budapest’s posh District V, he gained the reputation of being one of the most corrupt officials in the Orbán administration.

If the relationship between Lőrinc Mészáros and Viktor Orbán is often described as that of a mafia boss and his front man and if the Simicska-Orbán alliance was more like a business partnership, with Simicska acting as a financial adviser, the Kertész-Rogán alliance is a combination of the two. According to the authors, Balázs Kertész is the person who came up with all the schemes that made Rogán (and I assume Kertész as well) a very rich man.

Balázs Kertész at Antal Rogán's inauguration of minister

Balázs Kertész at Antal Rogán’s inauguration as minister

Although stories about Rogán’s more than shady real estate deals have been circulating for only a few years, he began his unsavory career much earlier. His and Kertész’s names first came up in 2003 when the K&H Equities scandal surfaced. A stockbroker named Attila Kulcsár was running a Ponzi scheme. Fidesz, then in opposition, tried to dump the whole scandal on the socialists, but it turned out that several people close to Fidesz were also involved. Among them, Antal Rogán (age 29) and Balázs Kertész (age 27), whose names were found in Kulcsár’s VIP list. Although the members of the parliamentary committee that investigated the case had questions about the two men, thanks to Péter Polt, the chief prosecutor, their names were dropped from the list of suspects.

This early brush with the law was nothing in comparison to what happened in District V. Balázs Kertész was the first to become a member of the district council. Soon enough he was followed by two of his friends from Fidelitas days, Antal Rogán and András Puskás. (Fidelitas is Fidesz’s youth organization, a place where aspiring young politicians learn the tools of the trade.) In no time the trio was running the show, despite the fact that the mayor was a socialist. In 2006 Rogán decided to run for district mayor against the socialist Pál Steiner and won easily. By that time Kertész was deeply involved in the district’s finances. Apparently he was the one who came up with the idea of selling expensive pieces of real estate at below market prices. He designed the transactions in such a way that neither he nor Rogán would suffer any legal consequences from cheating the district. The buyers, of course, had to pay a “surcharge”/kickback, apparently thousands of euros. How much of this money went to Kertész we don’t know.

Kertész also seems to be behind Rogán’s lucrative residency bond business. After Kertész left politics in 2010, he returned to the prestigious law firm where he began his legal career. A couple of years later, most likely in 2013, he joined a much less distinguished law firm. It was this firm that got the job of handling the administrative work for the applicants for residency bonds. Their fee was €5,000, and we are talking about 2,000-3,000 applicants so far. Of course, we don’t know whether, in addition, the Kertész-Rogán duo received kickbacks from the intermediaries abroad who got €50,000 per transaction. I suspect yes.

The most spectacular achievement of the Index team was the discovery of two videos. One proved that Balázs Kertész, Antal Rogán, and Árpád Habony met, despite Rogán’s denial. The other showed three highly-placed Georgian businessmen discussing a power plant to be financed by the Hungarian Eximbank. The parties to this discussion were the representative of the Bank of Georgia in Hungary, a Georgian-Israeli businessman, and the former prime minister of Georgia (2009-2012), Nika Gilauri, who earlier had served as minister of energy and minister of finance.

Unfortunately the meeting took place on a very noisy street, so not everything is audible. It is, however, clear that 5% of the Eximbank loan for the power plant has to be paid to Balázs Kertész. It is also obvious from the partial transcript that the money should be paid in advance in order “for them to start working.” I assume the work entails convincing Eximbank to grant the loan. The man who most likely has that job is András Puskás, deputy CEO of business operations at Eximbank, who used to be Rogán’s right-hand man and deputy in District V. So far no decision has been reached on the Georgians’ request for $68 million. And after these revelations, I doubt that they will see a penny of the promised loan. Whether Kertész has already banked over $3 million on this deal is unknown.

From Index’s article as well as some other commentaries we get a sense of how Kertész and Rogán have reacted to the probe. First, Kertész must have known for some time that journalists were after him. As the investigative team noted, “the closer we got to him, the more evidence of his existence disappeared.”

Second, there is a very good possibility that Kertész and Rogán laid a trap to discredit whatever Péter Juhász, Együtt’s sleuth, and the journalists might uncover. They enlisted a couple of “reliable” Fidesz sources to claim, independently of one another, that Balázs Kertész had been arrested by TEK and that many hundreds of forints were also impounded. The story was, of course, a hoax. If newspapers reported a false story, it would cast doubt on any subsequent stories about Kertész they might publish. At least one Hungarian newspaper fell into the trap.

Third, it is hard to believe how stupidly Antal Rogán tries to cover up his misdeeds. He thinks that if he denies that something ever happened it will simply go away. He denied his helicopter trip (documented by Népszabadság) and in this instance denied his meetings with Habony and Kertész (where again, hard evidence proves the contrary).

Fourth, perhaps his stupidest move once the Index story broke was to remove the recent picture showing Kertész at his inauguration as minister. For such an occasion a politician can normally invite his family members and a very small number of his closest friends. By removing the picture he practically admitted his guilt.

The most important question still remains. How much does Viktor Orbán know about all this? He has stuck with Rogán through thick and thin in the last couple of years, so my suspicion is that he is privy to everything.

November 13, 2016
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Observer
Guest

If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, if it looks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

“Rogán has long been suspected of being corrupt…”

They ALL ARE up to their necks in corruption, not only suspected. Every normal prosecutor (state attorney) would charge them and every normal court would find the guilty, but these are non starters here. Brazen lying is just a small by-product here.

Corrupt enrichment and power are the raisons d’etre of the system – power for money and money fore more power, and so on.

A Fidesz “intellectual”, now appointed rector of Corvinus University András Lánczy acknowledged in an interview (not in a pub chat) that this is not corruption, but a Fidesz policy aimed at creating a new elite.
You have it unequivocally from the horse’s mouth.

petofi
Guest

Orban knows all.
And he revels in the “in-your-face” aspect of it all.

bimbi
Guest

One has long had a sense that Fidesz’s modus operandi in regard to theft from the state or the EU has involved an effort to have all operations given a gloss of legality – by ‘losing’ paperwork, of course, and votes of approval by parliament or the appropriate local legislative body. One thinks of Orban’s theft of taxpayer money to build soccer stadia, the sole-bidder son-in-law lighting scam, the distribution of the State’s lands to deserving Fideszniks, Rogan’s Rent-to-Buy scheme in District V and the selling for personal gain of the State’s residency permissions. All legal, all OK – or are they?

Certainly it will be a mighty task to unravel the colossal web of deceit and any journalists who are ready and able to take on the work involved are to be congratulated by Hungarians at large. Of course, Mega-capitalist Orban works on the principle that if he can only keep going long enough and steal enough, no one, ever, will be able to get to the bottom of and clean up the manure of corruption that he and his colleagues will leave behind. Perhaps he even has a statute of limitations written into the Constitution?

Observer
Guest

bimbi
Many of these “legal” dealings and arrangements, if not all, are in fact illegal because they are based on phony or non compliant tendred or flawed award decisions.
Many more are based on illegitimate acts and regulations, which contradict the basic laws and legal principles.
The parliamentary majority CAN NOT do whatever they want and this is the main fallacy of the regime’s set up.

pappp
Guest

Orban controls everything in Fidesz, especially the flow of money.

It is totally inconceivable that he doesn’t know about a 100bn HUF business (which is the amount syphoned off just via the immigration bond racket).

It’s also inconceivable that Orban would allow others to simply amass such amounts at their on initiative as this would also mean power and influence within Fidesz.

Rogan is probably one (but far from the only one) major party finance managers and Orban put him there. Since Rogan and Habony et al know way too much and have joint businesses with Orban’s family members Orban simply cannot let them go, but this would no be his style either (if the media attacks them, Orban defends them even more).

Orban is known to be a micro manager, he himself decides low level policy issues especially those involving money (like can MFB buy an electricity company and if yes at what price etc.), it’s simply impossible that Orban doesn’t know about Rogan’s deeds.

The more he defends Rogan who is the most unpopular politicians (behind even Gyurcsany) Orban is also damaging himself. Which is a good thing.

Observer
Guest

In response to questions in Parliament the pugnacious Orban said that “the more (the opposition) attack Rogan, the more my trust in him increases “.

This is how the Hungarian “parliamentary” system works today.

Ferenc
Guest

Hey, where’s Tappanch?
Got the full Index-article saved on my computer (incl.all pics, vids, stylesheets etc), can view it as it is without internet connection, if you’re interested comment here, and I’ll find a way to get to you (incl.explanation how I got the article done)

Observer
Guest

Ferenc
How do u embed pictures , graphs, etc here?

Ferenc
Guest

Don’t know, didn’t try yet.
But could be something like including in text
or (without the space before and after the ‘arrows’)
So let’s try one, url:comment image
*using img:

*using iframe:

Ferenc
Guest

So it seems direct url is working, and html ‘arrows’ not shown.
Hope this helps you,

Ferenc
Guest

Now try video and picture from comments in previous posts, I just included the urls, let’s see what happens
video

image/picturecomment image

Ferenc
Guest

You see, image/picture just put url into the comments and it will appear, and video only shows url, so don’t know how to embed here

Ferenc
Guest

Hey, after refresh video appears also, so only plain url is sufficient to show video

Ferenc
Guest

As far as I understand the EU, they regularly organize meetings between EU ministers, who are responsible for the same tasks, e.g.foreign affairs, financial, etc..
Wondering now when will the ministers responsible for propaganda be called for special meeting, how many will come….., may be our Antalocka has to chair that meeting with himself………

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