Tag Archives: Archduke Joseph of Habsburg

Brazen plundering of Hungary’s national wealth

A few days ago I read with great interest that the mayor of Óbarok, the village next to the famed Felcsút, which received the most EU subsidies in the country, announced his intention to resign “for the good of the village.” Mihály Borbíró, an independent who has served the village for almost twelve years, believes that because he is not a Fidesz man Óbarok is being deprived financially. The village hasn’t received a penny from the subsidies allotted to Hungary from the European Union. Last year they asked for 10 million forints to renovate the kindergarten and 15 million for roadbuilding but got nothing. Óbarok, with a population of 800, is about half the size of Felcsút, but while Felcsút with 1,700 inhabitants received 600 million forints in EU assistance between 2009 and 2015 Óbarok got 25 million in 2011. Period. This is what normally happens in Orbán’s Hungary if the townspeople elect the “wrong” man.

The exorbitant size of EU subsidies for Felcsút is not the only thing that is suspicious. An incredible amount of agricultural land owned by the Hungarian state and leased on a long-term basis until now was auctioned off. Lőrinc Mészáros, Orbán’s alter ego, and Orbán’s in-laws bought more than their “fair share.” The purchase of land by the Mészáros family as well as others close to Orbán has been going on for some time, but when an investigative journalist tried to take a look at the data regarding land ownership in Felcsút he was turned away, despite the fact that such information is public.

And now to the latest on the Habsburg front. There is no question that Viktor Orbán is fascinated with the Hungarian Habsburg summer palace only a few kilometers from Felcsút. Another building from the original complex built by Archduke Joseph in the 1820s–a structure called “Mosóház” (washing house), which is of historical significance under special protection–was purchased by the Felcsúti Utánpótlás Neveléséért Alapítvány (Foundation for the Education of Future Champions). Although some newspapers announced the purchase as an acquisition by “Mészáros’s foundation,” the foundation was actually established by Viktor Orbán in 2006, if I’m not mistaken, with only 100,000 forints.

The story of this purchase is peculiar, as is almost everything connected to Orbán, Mészáros, and Felcsút. Until December the building belonged to the real estate company Artemis, owned by Henryk Marian Andrew Bukowski, a company with interests in the UK and Poland. Orbán’s foundation purchased not just the building but Artemis itself for 70 million forints. Artemis’s status was changed from profit to non-profit, and the company was moved from Budapest to Felcsút.

I should also note that the building is at the terminus of the five-kilometer run of the narrow-gauge railway that was reconstructed at great expense by the foundation.

Earlier I reported on the agricultural land that Mészáros and family have purchased recently. It is considered to be a good-size estate by Hungarian standards. The Mészáros family now owns over 1,400 hectares, or approximately 3,450 acres. The size of this acquisition is especially glaring if you look at all recent land purchases in Fejér County. Most of the land was sold in relatively small lots, between 20 and 200 hectares (40% of all auctioned off lands). These smaller lots were purchased by 90 individuals. The Mészáros family bought 8.3% of all the land auctioned off in Fejér County. Or, put another way, the total amount of land sold was 17,000 hectares, out of which the Mészároses got 1,425 hectares. The price was 1.9 billion forints.

This is land that Mészáros owns outright. Lately he also acquired the former Herceghalmi Kísérleti Gazdaság Zrt., now called Agrosystem Zrt., which leases 3,960 hectares of agricultural land from the Nemzeti Földalapkezelő (NFA/National Land Administration). Such leases are usually for 25 years, but Agrosystem was awarded a 50-year lease back in 2001. Note the date. This decision was reached in the last year of the first Orbán government.

Source: atlatszo.hu

Source: atlatszo.hu

A few hours ago Zsolt Gréczy, spokesman for the Demokratikus Koalíció, upon hearing that Orbán’s foundation had purchased the historic Mosóház of the former Habsburg estate, reaffirmed his party’s determination that after the fall of the Orbán regime “both those who concocted these suspicious, immoral, dishonorable, underpriced contracts and their beneficiaries will be called to account in the court of law.” As far as DK is concerned, all property currently in Mészáros’s name actually belongs to Viktor Orbán since in their opinion Mészáros is a front man and Viktor Orbán a billionaire.

Meanwhile, Mészáros is busy. He was just awarded a new contract. His company will build a school and sports facility in Dunakeszi, a 3.5 billion forint project. His company was also entrusted with the renovation of the Nemzeti Lovarda (National Riding School) in the Castle District in Buda and the renovation of the palace of the bishop of Szombathely. The latest is that he is trying his hand at a car dealership with headquarters in Felcsút.

When will this all end and how? When will the Hungarian people say: “That’s it! We will no longer tolerate your brazen plundering of our country.”

April 7, 2016

The Orbán family’s enrichment with a little government help

Today I read an editorial in Magyar Nemzet on the fate of Silvio Berlusconi.  It seems that Anna Szabó, the author, who is a great admirer of Viktor Orbán, forgot that the Hungarian prime minister is a friend of Berlusconi. Because she found Berlusconi’s sentence far too lenient and expressed her utter astonishment that the Italians, although they have long known about Berlusconi’s “dirty affairs,” only now were ready to punish him for his sins.

In the final paragraph of the editorial Szabó bemoans the fact that in Hungary many corruption cases have gone unpunished, pointing the finger at Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. She lists among their sins the fate of the Posta Bank, MSZMP’s former retreat in Balatonőszöd, the Budapest Airport, and “stealing parts of Lake Velence’s shores.” In case you draw a blank, it was at Lake Velence that the Israeli businessman Joav Blum and his American partners who included  Ronald S. Lauder hoped to build a luxury hotel and a casino.

If I were Anna Szabó I wouldn’t mention these cases right now because practically all the accusations she hurls at the former prime ministers are without foundation. On the other hand, in recent days Hungarian newspapers have been full of descriptions of certain business activities of members of the Orbán family that are suspect.

I am not an overly suspicious person. In fact, I can even be called naive when it comes to questionable business deals. On the one hand, I’m inept in business matters and, on the other, since I’m not in the habit of cheating or stealing from others I find it very difficult to imagine people whose daily activities include such shady activities.

I have encountered people over the last twenty years who have floated fanciful stories about Fidesz and the “boys.” I know a woman who to this day is convinced that a group of MSZMP leaders allowed the formation of Bibó College, the dormitory where Fidesz was born, in order to develop “trustworthy cadres” who would eventually be entrusted with salvaging the Kádár regime’s essential features. Well, I think this is madness.

On the other hand, I take much more seriously the persistent allegations that seem to be well founded about the money Fidesz got from the sale of the building the party received from the Hungarian state in 1992. Here only one thing is not entirely clear. How much of the 750,000 million (in 1992!!!) remained in the party coffers and how much disappeared into private pockets. We know only that László Kövér didn’t allow top party officials to take notes while Viktor Orbán tried to explain the distribution of the money among various Fidesz companies. But Klára Ungár, who was by that time highly suspicious of the activities of Lajos Simicska, László Kövér, and Viktor Orbán, tried to keep the figures in her head. She found that at least 170 million was missing from the total. We also don’t know what happened to the rest of the money that was invested in several companies that were eventually liquidated under very suspicious circumstances.

It is also another fairly well established fact that some of the money went to help Viktor Orbán’s father, Győző, purchase the state quarry he ran before the change of regime. It was this quarry in the village of Gánt that established the Orbán family’s fortune. Since then Győző Orbán has been able to add various enterprises to his original business and has become very rich indeed. According to Krisztina Ferenczi’s calculation, two of the businesses in which the older Orbán has a majority share (the quarry in Gánt and a company that produces peat) netted 2,192 billion forints last year. In addition to these two companies, there is another one that is owned exclusively by Viktor Orbán’s father and his two young brothers. That company was also profitable, bringing in an additional 400 million.

The Orbán Quarry in Gánt

The Orbán Quarry in Gánt

Győző Orbán also owns land in Felcsút adjacent to a parcel of land owned by Viktor Orbán. The VIP parking area of the Aranycsapat Stadium will be located on this piece of land. (Aranycsapat means Golden Team, the nickname of the Hungarian team that became world famous in the mid-1950s and on which Ferenc Puskás played before he left Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian revolution.)

The prime minister’s father also purchased part of the former estate of Archduke József of Habsburg. The summer palace of the Hungarian Habsburg family was destroyed during the war and the 7,000 acres that went with it was distributed among the local landless peasants. Only the manor house and 13 hectares were retained by the Hungarian state. Perhaps we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that both the manor house and the 13 acres ended up in Győző Orbán’s hands. As far as I know, the manor house is under renovation. Rumor has it that it is being converted into a luxury hotel.

And then there is the Orbán family’s controversial peat business. The first mention I found of the marshlands that are necessary for peat production was in the March 5 issue of HVG. Bernadette Szél (LMP) discovered that Fidesz was preparing a bill that would lift the protection of marshlands and allow the mining of peat.  By July it became public knowledge that the prime minister’s father and two brothers already owned about 200 acres of marshland in the County of Zala. Győző Orbán purchased the land in 1999 during the premiership of his son. The head of the Mining Authority was for a while a silent partner in this peat business. They and others purchased the land for practically nothing. In 2003 the area was declared to be protected, destined to be converted into a national park. All of the landowners were forced to sell their land to the state, with the exception of the Orbáns.

Bernadette Szél went to look at this land, which consists of several thousands of contiguous hectares of marshland. The Orbáns’ 200 acres that presumably were so different from all the others lie in the middle of this large area. It seems that the Orbán company will have a peat mining monopoly in these parts. At the moment the company, in addition to mining, is building a helicopter pad. Business is good. In 2012 there was half a billion forint profit.

And, as people say, “if we just knew the whole truth.” I think we would be astonished at the depth of corruption of the man who is currently the prime minister of Hungary.