One of the favorite businessmen of the Orbán government: András Lénárd of Real Csíki Beer

Last March I entertained the readers of Hungarian Spectrum with a bizarre story about a court case involving the Romanian subsidiary of Heineken and a mini-brewery owned by András Lénárd, a Romanian-Hungarian businessman, and Lixid Holding BV, a Dutch company. Among the products sold by the Romanian Heineken was one the company called Miercurea Ciuc–Ciuc Premium, which the local Hungarians just called Csíki Sör. Lénárd’s company decided to name their product “Igazi Csíki Sör,” or “Real Csíki Beer.” Heineken sued for trademark infringement and won.

What followed was unreal. Shortly after the verdict was handed down in the spring of 2017, the Hungarian government devised a strategy to make Heineken’s life in Hungary miserable. János Lázár and Zsolt Semjén suggested a modification of the law on the use of totalitarian symbols for commercial purposes and, as we all know, Heineken proudly displays a red star on its bottles. Soon enough, the government’s antagonism to Heineken was extended to all foreign-owned breweries. People were urged to boycott Heineken products, and for a while people were ready to pay twice as much for “Igazi Csíki Sör” as for other beer. That didn’t last long, and by August I reported that supermarkets had stopped stocking it. The company even tried offering it at half price for home delivery, but that strategy also proved futile. Two days ago Lénárd’s Székely Bolt (Szekler Store) in Budapest was shuttered.

On the very same day Magyar Nemzet came out with a story about Lénárd, for whom the Hungarian government was ready to wage a huge fight with a world-famous multi-national company. The story isn’t pretty.

According to documents that reached the paper, Lénárd, as an eighteen-year-old, visited the United States on a tourist visa in 1995, but his true intention was to stay permanently. He worked as an illegal for a small company, got married to an American woman 17 years his senior, and bought a house in Plymouth, Connecticut. Everything went smoothly until he got involved in smuggling people into the United States from Canada. There is good reason to believe that his smuggling activity was quite extensive and that his girlfriend/wife was also involved in the “business.” There is documentation of several run-ins that she had with the law for the illegal transportation of aliens within the United States. In any case, on January 21, 2001, he and three Hungarian women were arrested two miles from the U.S.-Canadian border, close to Champlain, New York. As investigative journalists discovered, the three women were planning to work in a striptease joint in the United States.

He was charged with “bringing in and harboring aliens,” which is considered a felony. He was freed on $50,000 bail, which was paid by his girlfriend/wife. But in June of the same year his lawyer from Albany reported to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York that his client was currently in Canada and “he doesn’t wish to appear before the judge either now or in the future.” The judge immediately issued an arrest warrant, which is most likely still in effect.

But the story doesn’t end here. Once the couple arrived in Romania, Lénárd used money from the pension plan of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Transylvania to start a business, building a series of mini-hydroelectric power plants, which didn’t turn out to be a financial success. In 2015, however, he convinced the state-owned Magyar Villamos Művek (MVM) to buy his mini-power plants for 30 million euros. Lénárd must have had extremely close relations with the Orbán government to pull off this deal. According to available business information, MVM is doing poorly in Romania. Lénárd’s business ventures usually end badly, it seems.

Naturally, Lénárd is trying to explain away his serious problems with the law in the United States. He produced a video that he made public on YouTube. During this ten-minute so-called interview he wants us to believe that he was not arrested for a crime because the charge was not a felony but only a misdemeanor on account of his illegal overstay in the United States, which is a minor offense. At the same time, he accuses Magyar Nemzet of being in the pay of his multinational competitors who want to ruin his business.

Lénárd already has another business in mind. He and some of his friends will be introducing a crypto-currency called “korona” (crown), which they hope will be the bitcoin of East-Central Europe. As Lénárd explained, their crypto-korona will follow the concept of DigiCash Inc., an electronic money corporation found in 1989. But I would be careful if I were Lénárd because, after all, DigiCash went bankrupt nine years later. Lénárd claims that DigiCash’s problem was that its technology was too advanced for the time. In any case, the korona’s ICO (initial coin offering) will take place in Switzerland on February 26.

Lénárd proudly announced that “an expert from NASA” and “a member of the staff responsible for the development of Apollo-11” is heading the “korona” project. His name is Attila Bustya, and he is also a Csíkszereda native. He is the “co-founder and CEO of Spider Drone Security,” which upon closer observation turns out to be one of András Lénárd’s companies. Bustya is also involved with a firm called Swiss Message Bank, a rather bizarre internet application that can store voice messages for 100 years. What for? One can record “messages from the elderly and ill to loved ones and friends”  and share them years later, after the people are no more. Or, one can store and later reveal secrets. I made a valiant effort to find Attila Bustya’s connection to NASA but failed.

The pro-government media is rather quiet. Only Mandiner published an interview with Lénárd today, but the conversation took place at the end of December, before the news broke about his smuggling of striptease dancers to the United States. Origo meekly commented on Lénárd’s video message in which the conclusion was that “he was not a smuggler, only a rascal” (csibész, de nem csempész). I have the feeling that just as the Orbán government has conveniently forgotten about modifying the law on totalitarian symbols, it will similarly omit any mention of its favorite brewer’s unfortunate American escapade. I also suspect that his beer will soon disappear, especially since just before Christmas Romania’s State Office for Inventions and Trademarks (OSIM) refused to register “Igazi Csíki Sör.” Lénárd decided not to appeal.

January 5, 2018
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Michael Kaplan
Guest

I think I will “buy” shares in the voice mail company, so I can leave messages for my descendants regarding all the crooks and grifters that this funny article comments on. Hard to believe that the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania (Erdely) pension fund gave $$ to this career crook to invest! I say “hard to believe”, as many of your non Hungarian readers nay not know how poor Erdely is! The “Red Star” part of the article alone is worth a serious award.

wrfree
Guest

I got a kick out of the ‘bitcoin’ bit the crypto-currency ‘korona’. Wouldn’t be surprised if Szijjarto es co are checking out the ‘block chains’ there. Right up there to bring the money finaglers in cahoots with the kleptocrats. Illiberalism with the grasping greedy fingers.

Guest

Rather OT – or not?

Is Lénard a relative of Nobel Prize winner physicist Fülöp (he liked to write his name that way …) Lenard, a fan of Hungary, one of the biggest Nazi scientists and the founder of “Aryan physics”?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_Lenard
The joke on him:
He was a great experimental physicist (predated Röntgen …) and the photoelectric effect that he found could only be explained by Einstein’s adoption of quanta – for which Einstein got the Nobel Prize too …
And of course he could never accept “Jewish Relativity Theory” …

wrfree
Guest

Mr. Lenard could be a poster boy for capitalism gone bad.
A King Midas in reverse. Come to think of it there’s alot more like this guy running around.

Istvan
Guest

The running of Central European prostitutes into the USA is big business. Mr. Lenard is clearly not an innovator, but a follower of trends. These were not Herein Chicago there are numerous higher end Ukrainian and Russian prostitutes marketed as escorts (for example see https://www.gfemonkey.com/escorts/chicago/european ). So why not market Hungarian girls here thinks the innovative Lenard.

There have been numerous studies of Central European women in the prostitution trade in the EU, but much less about how they are marketed in the USA, Turkey, Asia, and the Middle East. One such book is titled The Natashas: The Horrific Inside Story of Slavery, Rape, and Murder in the Global Sex Trade. The truth is Central European women are being traded around the world as if they are horses. The women Lenard was smuggling into the USA were going to do a bit more than dance at strip clubs.

Guest

Yes, Istvan, this is a kind of modern slave trade – and it happens all over the world, also in Western Europe!

Worse imho than the drug trade – though it seems to be connected.

Member

To show how much the Hungarian government was trying to boost Real Csiki Beer, they were blasting advertisement over the national radio stations, even Bartok Radio (the only one we listen to). I believe their was a Csiki Beer festival in Budapest last summer or fall as well.

Jean P
Guest

The failure of Csiki beer may have somrthing to do with its inferior quality. I tasted it and never bought another bottle.

Guest

I tried a korsó too last summer at the Balaton beach in Keszthely – it wasn’t bad, but much too expensive (almst twice the price of the Heineken …). 🙂

Guest

OT re Orbán’s visit in Bavaria:
On twitter a lady posted a telling picture of the leading CSU politicians and their guest – around 30 men, not even one single woman …
You find it here: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/alexander-dobrindt-kritik-am-essay-des-csu-politikers-reisst-nicht-ab-a-1186556.html
Dobrindt is the (former) traffic minister, best known for his idea of introducing an Autobahn toll in Germany – of course only for foreigners …
Seems the CSU are afraid of the AfD that’s why they’re marching to the right – now why does this remind me of Hungary?