“An important accomplishment”: Two most likely innocent men were convicted in the Sukoró case

Over the years I have written many posts on the infamous Sukoró case. In 2008, during the second Gyurcsány government, a group of American, Israeli, German, and Hungarian businessmen were hoping to build a tourist center, including hotels, restaurants, a water entertainment center, a golf course, and a casino, on a 70-hectare spot at Lake Velence, which was the property of the state at the time. Joav Blum, one of the investors, made a proposition to the Hungarian government. He would exchange his 183-hectare orchard in the county of Pest for this barren land. The government welcomed the project because the investors figured that about 3,500 employees would be needed to run the complex. Ferenc Gyurcsány called upon the office that handled state properties (Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő/MNV). If all was in order, the swap could take place. After getting several appraisals, the office found the land swap fair.

From the start Fidesz organized a campaign against the project. Initially, it seemed that Viktor Orbán was simply planning to put the Sukoró project on hold for a while and, once Fidesz wins the election in 2010, his government could then boast about an investment project larger than the Kecskemét Mercedes factory. But, as time went by, Orbán realized that Sukoró might be the perfect case to send his arch-rival Ferenc Gyurcsány to jail. By late 2010, plans were underway to begin the witch hunt. The two top officials of MNV, Miklós Tátrai and Zsolt Császy, were arrested.

As early as April 2011 I wrote a post which bore the title “Show trials under way?” At that time Tátrai and Császy had just been released from jail. Császy gave an interview to Népszabadság and had a talk with Olga Kálmán on ATV. He said that the prosecutors’ primary aim was to break them so they would render false testimony against Ferenc Gyurcsány.

Prosecutors follow a simple formula in cases involving the sale of state or municipal properties. MNV or a local government hires several assessors, who come up with a reasonable price. Then years later the prosecutor’s office asks its own assessor, who offers a grossly inflated figure. The case is closed as far as the prosecutor’s office is concerned. This is exactly what happened in the case of Sukoró.

The infamous trial began in Szolnok in January 2013. The two men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms. According to Császy, the prosecutor’s office picked the Szolnok Court because they were pretty certain that they could win their case there. They were right. In fact, Császy claims that the judge either denied defense motions or rejected them without reason. The court didn’t allow the testimony of the judicial expert the defense asked to testify. The judge took into account the testimony of witnesses who could be questioned only by the prosecution, not the defense. The court falsified testimony. The judge questioned witnesses without the accused or their lawyers being present. Even with all of this, the case was not strong enough to convict Tátrai and Császy so, Császy claims, the judge invented stories and made his decision based on these falsehoods.

The appellate court rendered its decision in Szeged in October 2016. It gave a long, detailed critique of the Szolnok judge’s shoddy work. The judge declared that not only were Tátrai and Császy not guilty but that no crime had been committed. Of course, the prosecutors appealed to the Kúria, which today reversed the appellate court’s decision.

The scene of the final verdict

Of course, Fidesz is delighted. The party published a statement in which they “welcomed the decision of the Kúria in the case of the Sukoró land swap” because “the proper place for criminals is in prison.” According to the statement, “the government of Gyurcsány and the socialists was the most corrupt” in modern Hungarian history. János Lázár, during his “government info,” also praised the Kúria’s decision. He described the verdict as “an important accomplishment” and continued: “For the time being only two people have been convicted, but in my opinion Ferenc Gyurcsány is responsible legally. After all, he conducted the negotiations. It is clear from this verdict how the socialists handle public money.” To talk about the incredible corruption of the socialist-liberal government takes gall from people who run a “mafia state” known for its corruption throughout the world.

Perhaps the most stomach-turning announcement came from LMP’s co-chair Ákos Hadházy, who announced that “Ferenc Gyurcsány must bear the political consequences of this verdict.” Where was he in the past seven years when most people realized that this “conceptual trial,” as Hungarians call show trials, was a charade all along? LMP’s political moves never cease to amaze me.

László Varju, deputy-chairman of DK, announced at a press conference that once DK is in a government position, it would like to see the prosecutors who created the show trial and Tünde Handó, head of the National Judicial Office (Országos Bírósági Hivatal), in jail. Handó was the one who assigned the case to Mrs. Sólyomvári née Mária Csendes in Szolnok. Varju charged that “Fidesz created the Sukoró case in order to incarcerate Ferenc Gyurcsány, and the only sin of Miklós Tátrai and Zsolt Császy was that they refused to commit perjury.”

Gyurcsány himself wrote the following on Facebook: “They are innocent. I know because I’m familiar with the case and the procedure. The investigative prosecutors and the judges who convicted them are the guilty ones. But one day a new era will come. There will be a new government. Then we will free them, and they will be granted full financial and moral reparations. We will take action with all legitimate means against those who participated in this nefarious process. Those who have served Orbán’s regime should not count on our understanding. They ruined people, families, lives because they were cowards, opportunists, or just plain corrupt. There will be no revenge. Only at last there will be a fair judiciary. You locked up my honorable colleagues because you couldn’t find a way to imprison me. I will never forget it. Never.”

June 8, 2017
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Daniel
Guest

Most likely innocent? All of them are. The only problem with Sukoro is it was not the idea of Orban. Had it been his idea, he would have given billions of incentives to the investors (he always does), and his friends would have built a huge complex at three times the estimated costs, operated by Casino King criminal Andy Vajna, not paying taxes. Hundreds of prosties would work there, we would have a new center of the underground world. The plans they could not realize because it did not come from the brains of the eternal PM of this country, were very decent and would have provided prosperity to the whole region, with a thousand people working there, and tons of revenue to the state. Who needs that?

Member

Very sad that Akos Hadhazy, too, has a Gyurcsany complex. Because Hadhazy is so effective in exposing corruption, I assume he himself is not corrupt. Partly it’s just (as Professor Balogh notes) LMP’s usual nuttiness. But just as brilliant mathematicians who discover and prove improbable theorems sometimes also have paranoid delusions — or at least compulsive conspiratorial ideas — something like this could be what’s feeding both Hadhazy’s corruption sleuthing skills and his conspiracy theories. I once thought Hadhazy might be potential prime ministerial material. Wrong again.

Member

Hadhazy is already supposed to have learned how to make distinctions in corruption cases. I think this is just cheap way of both seeking some publicity and keeping distance from much hated Gyurcsány.

Guest

After having read today’s post and several other accounts on the decision of the Kúria I think that I have understood that the two defendants were sentenced for bad judgemment and not for doing something for personal gain. Please correct me if I am wrong.

If this becomes legal practice there will be no need to prove personal gain when the Fidesz mafia is finally brought to court. They have all shown bad judgement worth years in prison.

Observer
Guest
Jean P and all The felony in question is defined by Section 376 of the Penal Code and is broadly translated as misappropriation, which is not identical with the Sec 376 corpus delicti. Misappropriation (anglo law) is defined as “ the intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one’s own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, … or by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another’s assets (a fiduciary duty) …” The text of Sec 376 § 1 (1) A person who has been entrusted with the management of the assets of others and causes a material disadvantage by violating his or her duty shall be guilty of misappropriation.” Puts the emphasis on willful mismanagement or breach of fiduciary duty AND on the causing a material disadvantage. Since all the paragraphs 1 to 6 of Sec. 376 mention “material disadvantage”, as a criteria for the severity of the penalty, this element is undoubtedly part of the corpus delicti. Not to mention the complexity of the investment deal, where the eventually unfavorable swap of land might have been an incentive for the overall beneficial investment project, just as… Read more »
Observer
Guest

And

For those not very familiar with the Sukoro case:

The Appellate Court of Szeged acquitted the defendants for the lack of crime since no material disadvantage ensued, because the investment project was abandoned and the incriminating swap of land never happened. In the absence of “material disadvantage” a charge of missappropriation couldn’t be brought, so Orban’s man, Chief Prosecutor Peter Polt went for “attempted” which in my opinion doesn’t have any basis in law.

Guest

If misappropriation and plain bad judgement are not the same thing then bad judgement may at least be a valid explanation of misappropriation. Untrained in legal thinking I prefer to look at it that way. There can’t be such a thing as attempted bad judgement (and the bumblebee can’t fly).

Observer
Guest

Jean P

A perfect example of Sec 376 crimes were the sales of over 100 properties owned by the Bud 5th District Council under mayor Antal Rogan to friends and cronies at well below market prices and with the extension of buyer credits on much more favorable than market conditions, probably worth 250 years in prison cumulatively.

Istvan
Guest
Eva’s discussion of the evolution of the Sukoró case over a period of years was much appreciated. What is fascinating to me is how the Hungarian judiciary largely has not evolved sufficiently since transition from the communist state. I don’t think it’s simply the Fidesz purge of the court system and the constitutional court in particular, it’s a deep lack of understanding of how the judiciary acts as a necessary intermediary between the state (including the security apparatus and military), the interests of the mass of non-wealthy citizens, and commercial interests inclusive of oligarchs under capitalism. The communist used to call it bourgeois law, and the critique I think tainted the thinking of the judicial system coming into a market economy. We have seen a similar purge in Poland too. The Eötvös Károly Public Policy Institute of the Soros Foundation has discussed this phenomenon extensively in its research. Kim Lane Scheppele who Eva has featured in her essays also has extensively discussed this. What is so interesting to me here in the USA has been the amazing independence of the US federal judiciary during the rule of President Trump and the Republican Congressional majority up to now. The Bannon led… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Saw the joke made in late night tv on the ‘excuse’ given for Trump not being up to date on how things are usually taken through in government… he’s ‘new’ give’em a break. What? For perhaps not following the law or specific and understood no-nos? Looks the Magyar and Russian judiciaries could be apparently ‘new’ too.

Guest
A bit OT re Trump: My wife’s son just sent me a joke. What is the difference between Russia and the reality? Trump has connections to Russia! And also OT but relevant for life in Hungary: We were on the old main road south of the Balaton today – the billborads were really funny! The ones about stealing by Jobbik my wife liked – and then there were the government billboards – just the text: Hungary is strong in Europe! Accompanied by the picture of a tiger – without any kind of info what that might mean … So I immediately told my wife: Yes, Üvegtigris (one of the famous Hungarians comedy movies) and we both exploded with laughter … PS: The driving was rather slow (we didn’t use the motorway) because you drive through one village/small city after the other with speed limits – but there were a few crazies overtaking everybody at risky speed … A young woman in a convertible (Hungarian licence plate) was driving through the village at 100 km/h (50 is the limit) like mad – I’m sure she’s the daughter (or lover …) of one of the Fidesz mafiosi … Back to the old… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘What is the difference between Russia and the reality?
Trump has connections to Russia..

Nice!

Have to put this one in about extor’s ref to Dangerfield and ‘no respect’ which links to the entire left. The latter surely get ‘no respect’ as the right is always trying to be rid of them. Just like Rodney’s family who he says ‘they went for a picnic in the woods’. The allatok then started a forest fire. A vic which maybe tells it like it is in Magyarorszag today.

Guest

When I learned about the basics of democracy in school the Gewaltenteilung (division of powers) and independency of the judiciary was one of the first and most important points!
We all know that Fidesz did all to get their own people in the judiciary as soon as possible – a clear sign that like the Communists they don’t want democracy but kakistocracy!

Observer
Guest

Wolfi

Don’t mince the words – fascism is what they are closest to, plus total institutionalized corruption.

Guest

The corruption really is unbelievable – I know several people in the construction business e g who told me quite clearly that they don’t even bother answering when they are asked to bid on a government project – because they can’t manage and afford the kickbacks.
They only work for regular companies (preferrably international – those have some anticorruption ideas) not connected to the government or for private projects …
And I’ve written about this before:
The English husband of one of my sisters won’t come to visit us in Hungary because he has those bad memories of corruption from the time he worked for one of the global players 20 years ago in Budapest – he’s still angry thinking about those days.
He says in Africa where he worked after his Budapest stint it wasn’t as bad!

Toby
Guest

I like this very much.

Rivarol
Guest

I would shoot Hando in the head. She is an antisemite.

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