Tag Archives: land auctions

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 new Hungarian landowners or, as some call them, “ersatz peasants”

In the last few days opposition papers have been having a great deal of fun over the “degree” that Lőrinc Mészáros received that made him eligible to be a bona fide tiller of the land (földműves). Without this piece of paper Mészáros, former gasfitter and current billionaire, and his family wouldn’t have been able to purchase over 1,400 hectares of land from the Hungarian state.

Those of you who still don’t know who Lőrinc Mészáros is shouldn’t fret. Almost no one knows much about the man, except that he is a very close associate of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. How close a financial relationship they have is a topic of hot debate in Hungarian public discourse. There are even some totally cynical human beings who believe that Lőrinc Mészáros doesn’t really exist.

Meszaros es Orban

Lőrinc Mészáros and Viktor Orbán

The modest village gasfitter is by now an international player. For example, he just became majority owner of the NK Osijek football club, although as a youngster he wasn’t even interested in the sport. But I guess as mayor of Felcsút and CEO of the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy, a personal foundation of Viktor Orbán, he has to be a soccer enthusiast. Or at least act as if he is.

The land auction the Orbán government initiated is a bonanza for those who are lucky enough to be able to purchase parcels of agricultural land, mostly because of the European Union subsidies they receive simply for owning them. The whole scheme, critics maintain, is a perfect opportunity to fill the pockets of Fidesz politicians, their relatives, and their business partners.

On paper everything looks squeaky clean, as Fidesz politicians repeat often enough. First of all, only bona fide farmers are eligible to purchase land in Hungary. There are three ways to be considered a farmer. First, by having a degree from one of the agricultural colleges or by graduating from a specialized agricultural high school. A person can also qualify as a farmer if he has been the owner of a farm for the last three years. There is a third category, however: the so-called “golden eared farmers” (aranykalászos gazdák) who finish a crash course consisting, at least on paper, of 400 hours of instruction, costing around 250,000 forints. Businessmen, politicians, lawyers, and their family members flocked by the thousands to finish the course before the land auctions began. These are the people one irreverent journalist called “the ersatz peasants.” And with good reason because, as vs.hu revealed in October 2015, most of these courses are phony and the institutions that offer them merely diploma mills.

The number of farmers grew rapidly throughout 2015. In the summer of 2014 there were only 34,000 “tillers of the land,” including Mrs. Viktor Orbán, but by the end of last year that number had jumped to 106,000. Not all of them were “ersatz peasants” but many, including Fidesz politicians, were. For example, Fidesz MP Balázs Győrffy, president of the National Agrarian Association and one of the chief promoters of the land auction. His story is really bizarre. It came to light a few days ago that Győrffy, given his position, was planning to hide his purchase of 150 hectares of land. He arranged a loan of 160 million forints for his chauffeur to purchase the land. Immediately after the chauffeur became the owner, he sold one square meter of land from his 150 hectares to Győrffy. Since the new land law stipulates that a neighbor has the right of first refusal, the chauffeur subsequently sold all 150 hectares to Győrffy.

Mészáros, unlike Győrffy, didn’t try to hide his and his relatives’ land purchases. As far as I know, his family won the most land of anyone in the auction game. The Mészároses received several parcels amounting to 1,400 hectares. Győrffy’s 150 hectares pales by comparison. But, of course, Mészáros is in a very special position. He is considered to be Orbán’s alter ego.

Mészáros had owned land earlier without needing to be formally qualified. This time around, however, like the rest of the applicants he had to get a piece of paper to be eligible to purchase more land. HírTV discovered that the former gasfitter took his “exam” miles away from Felcsút at an agricultural establishment close to Szekszárd. When the director of the place was questioned, he told the curious journalists that Mészáros “had received instruction at his own farm and only took the exam at [their] place.” From the conversation the reporter got the impression that this particular examination center is a favorite among pro-Fidesz oligarchs.

Együtt became so suspicious that they decided to go to the police asking for an investigation of the case. They charge that the “diploma” was given without the “student” fulfilling the necessary requirements and that therefore it is actually a forgery. Consequently, the Mészároses’ land purchases are illegal. Of course, we all know that nothing will come of that investigation.

There is a Hungarian slang word “kamu,” which comes from the word “kamuflázs” (camouflage). It means “phony,” “unreal.” Most likely the diplomas of Mészáros and the Lázár brothers are “kamu.” But so was the announcement by the president of the Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Father Szabolcs Anzelm Szuromi, that he had just been appointed a research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge University. He added that he had been invited to be a member of the university’s accreditation committee. Upon investigation, the whole story turned out to be “kamu” and the announcement was quickly removed from the university’s website.

From top to bottom graft, lies, and corruption. How long will the Hungarian people put up with all this?

February 16, 2016