Tag Archives: Roland Mengyi

Anti-refugee hysteria in Hungary

The “real” referendum campaign began only after September 4, when Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz parliamentary delegation met for the weekend in Balatonfüred to discuss the political tasks ahead. Of course, the most urgent job is to whip up sentiment against the “migrants,” thus making sure that enough people vote, preferably “no” to the question “Do you want the European Union, without the consent of Parliament, to order the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?” I’d wager to say that the majority of citizens who are ready to participate in this hoax believe that what they are voting for is “No, we don’t want to have a single migrant in our midst.”

After three weeks of intense campaigning, with government and party officials on the road day in and day out, a veritable hysteria has enveloped the country. It is a frightening reminder of how an unscrupulous demagogue can take basically decent people and instill in them the worst possible instincts about people they know close to nothing about (and the little they think they know comes from dubious sources).

A year ago 64% of Hungarians thought that “it is our duty to help the refugees” and 52% believed that the refugees should be treated more humanely than the Hungarian government was doing at the time. Today the second number has decreased to 38%, and only 35% think it is their duty to help the refugees at all. These are the results of the hate campaign the Orbán government has waged for months. This kind of propaganda blitz can be carried out only in dictatorships where all power is concentrated in the hands of the government and where there is no effective opposition, which by now is pretty much the case in Hungary. The fractured Hungarian opposition has no means by which to combat this one-sided onslaught.

So, let’s see what kinds of tricks the Orbán government is using to achieve its desired end. The most brutal words came from György Nógrádi, the government’s favorite “expert” on national security, who worked as an agent for the internal security establishment during the 1980s. He is apparently very popular as a speaker at the “town meetings” organized by the local authorities. He says that these migrants cannot be integrated, and if Hungarians don’t want “no-go” zones in Hungary they will have to go and vote. In one town the audience was in a total frenzy by the time Nógrádi finished with his stories about the horrid possibilities awaiting them. An older woman rose to speak, clutching the photos of her two granddaughters who will be raped by migrants unless Viktor Orbán saves them. At the end of the lecture Nógrádi suggested that the only way to stop the inflow of migrants is to shoot them as they are crossing the sea.

Zsolt Bayer frightens people by telling them that 2 billion people will be coming to Europe from Africa, even though the population of the continent is only 1.2 billion. Fidesz MPs have been going from town to town, terrifying people with the prospect that migrants will be forcibly settled in their town. In Gödöllő the Fidesz MP of the district told his audience that 1,500 migrants will be settled in the town, which means 220 families. Moreover, in time that number will be much higher because these people’s relatives will join them. The mayor of the town is suing the MP for scare-mongering. In Csepel the Fidesz deputy mayor announced that the residents “wouldn’t be happy if [the government] had to evict the tenants” living in municipal housing in order to make room for the migrants. Moreover, the district now spends 192 million forints on financial assistance for its citizens, and it would be sad if that money ended up in the hands of the migrants. Two lawyers decided to sue the deputy mayor, again for scare-mongering.

Roland Mengyi, the MP whose immunity was just lifted because of the corruption case unearthed by Attila Rajnai of 168 Óra, was asked to campaign for the referendum. No hiding in shame for him. At one of his meetings Gabriella Selmeczi, formerly a Fidesz spokeswoman, told the people of Borsod County that migrants will be settled there and that the “white people” will soon find out what it’s like having “no-go zones” if they don’t vote no. A gypsy in the crowd told the audience that “ten years ago at Olaszliszka these people would have killed not only Lajos Szögi but his daughters as well. Everybody.” In 2006 in Olaszliszka a group of gypsies beat to death a man whom they accused of killing a girl who ran in front of his car. More about the story here.

hysteria by s.butterfy / flickr.com

hysteria by s.butterfy / flickr.com

The official referendum booklet claims that the so-called “no-go” zones are areas of cities that the authorities are unable to keep under their control. Here the society’s written or unwritten norms do not apply. Saying that in those European cities where large numbers of immigrants live several hundred “no-go” zones exist got the Hungarian government into trouble. Not only was Szijjártó asked some hard-hitting questions in an interview with the BBC, but the British, French, German, and Swedish ambassadors together demanded a meeting in the Hungarian foreign ministry about this obviously false claim of the Hungarian government.

Meanwhile, others resort to violence. The Two-tailed Dog Party (KKP), which has collected about 20 million forints and printed several funny “counter-posters,” has several young activists who put them up on advertising surfaces. Pro-government individuals systematically tear them down or cover them with other advertisements. The following incident gives an idea of what’s going on nowadays in the country. Activists were in the middle of putting up KKP posters in Szentendre when a taxi driver went up to them and yelled “A zsidó kurva anyátokat” (Your f..ing Jewish mother). At that point the taxi driver tore down the posters one by one and, when an activist starting taking a video, the man hit him. The activist ended up on the ground. To everybody’s great surprise the police on its own laid charges against the man, who has since been identified as Béla P (63). He is being accused of battery.

The chief culprit is of course Viktor Orbán himself, who just today announced at a press conference in Vienna that in Egypt 5.5 million migrants are waiting to move on and that the EU-Turkish agreement might easily be broken. In this case the EU needs a new “script for the impending disaster” (vészforgatókönyv). I was especially intrigued by the 5.5 million migrants in Egypt since that is an enormous number of people about whom we should have heard sometime, somewhere. So I decided to investigate. I found the following information about the number of refugees in Egypt, as provided by the UN Refugee Agency: “As of 31 August [2016], 187,838 refugees and asylum-seekers have been registered with UNHCR in Egypt, with 116,175 Syrian (62%) followed by 31,200 Sudanese, 10,941 Ethiopians, 7,254 Somalis, and 7,000 Iraqis, among others.”

What can we expect from a government whose the prime minister so brazenly lies about facts that can be easily verified? Not much. The result is a moral disaster.

September 24, 2016

The latest revelations in the Roland Mengyi case

People unfamiliar with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary might think that I’m spending far too much time on the case of Roland Mengyi, a Fidesz MP. So what, they might say. They caught a politician who is a crook. Happens in the best of countries. What’s the big fuss?

Well, that’s not how things work in Hungary. The Orbán government has been in power for more than six years, during which the independent media reported on a raft of suspicious cases. Not once did the “independent” prosecutor’s office ask the president of the parliament to initiate proceedings to suspend a Fidesz MP’s immunity, even when such a request was warranted.

Yes, Hungary’s chief prosecutor is independent in the sense that he and his office are not subordinated to the ministry of justice, unlike in most European countries or the United States. That was not the case between 1867 and 1949. The prosecutor’s office was the judicial arm of the state. After 1990 a restoration of the old system was briefly discussed and rejected, for fear of government interference in the judiciary. Thus, Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt, an important ally of Viktor Orbán, is responsible to no one except, of course unofficially, the prime minister. He is a man of immense responsibility and power. He could theoretically topple Orbán’s corrupt regime or, being a faithful servant, keep it in power by burying all the embarrassing and even politically lethal cases.

Very often the prosecutor’s office doesn’t even start an investigation of cases reported to the police. In a few bigger cases they begin an investigation but the prosecutors find the cases too weak to go any further and drop them. Then, there are those cases when the prosecutor’s allegations are so poorly worded that the judges have no recourse but to acquit the accused.

The Mengyi case is testing the “see no evil” prosecutorial system. Péter Polt was forced to act. He had no choice once 168 Óra released the third installment of the story of Roland Mengyi and his accomplices. It reported that the National Tax and Customs Administration has a video on which one can see two of the accused men handing Mengyi a small plastic bag that might have contained the 5 million forints Mengyi demanded from them. An hour after this information hit the newsstands Polt wrote to László Kövér requesting that Mengyi’s immunity be lifted.

Mama Rosa, Italian restaurant, where the Roland Mengyi allegedly received the money

Mama Rosa, the Italian restaurant in Tiszaújváros, where Roland Mengyi allegedly received 5 million forints in cash

In this post I will concentrate on what we learned from the third installment of Attila Rajnai’s series on the Mengyi case, but before that I will try to clarify why the National Tax and Customs Administration/NAV is involved in this case since it has nothing whatsoever to do with tax fraud.

Initially, NAV was not investigating Mengyi but Márta F. of Tiszaújváros, an accountant whom the NAV investigators suspected of being involved in tax fraud by gaming the special tax status of employees of social cooperatives. These employees, who are disadvantaged, pay lower taxes and have lower social benefits payroll deductions than employees of ordinary businesses. Márta F.’s scheme was to change the status of employees of ordinary businesses to social cooperative employees. The scheme worked this way. The worker was let go by his employer and immediately hired by one of the social cooperatives, but in reality he worked in his old workplace except that his employer now hired him as a social cooperative worker with a reduced tax burden. Márta F. was apparently arranging these switches in status in such huge numbers that NAV investigators became suspicious and began their surveillance of her activities. Mengyi’s bad luck was that Tibor B. and Zsolt E., the two friends who turned to Mengyi for help, got in touch with Márta F., who was known as an expert in setting up social cooperatives. Thus their conversations with Márta F. were also recorded. These conversations prompted a second investigation that led to Mengyi.

So, what did the public learn from 168 Óra’s third installment? Plenty. One important piece of information is that if NAV investigators find a political thread in the course of their investigation, they have to report the case immediately to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office can then, if the chief prosecutor so desires, stop the investigation altogether. In fact, Rajnai is aware of an earlier case where an important business partner of one of Viktor Orbán’s oligarchs was in trouble with NAV but the prosecutor’s office stopped the investigation. It is quite possible that the same thing happened in the Mengyi case because just when the investigators were ready to arrest the Fidesz MP, their superiors refused to give them permission to proceed.

Of course, the newly appointed NAV president, András Tállai, might have put an end to the investigation, especially since in one of the conversations Péter K., the middle man between Mengyi and the two applicants for the grant, tries to quell their fears by telling them not to worry because András Tállai and Roland Mengyi are “on very good terms.”

The other revelation of this third installment is that last fall someone in the ministry of human resources told Péter K. that NAV investigators had paid a visit to the ministry and that they should be careful because their telephone calls are being monitored. At the moment we don’t know who that person was, but Rajnai suspects that his name is known to the prosecutors. Because revealing such information to subjects of an investigation is a crime, this person is probably also in trouble.

As the network of corruption expands, another possible culprit is the owner of Public Sector Consulting Kft. (KSC), Sándor Holbok, whom I described earlier as an “ősfideszes” or “primordial member” of the party. Although at the moment only Szilvia B., an employee of the company, is in jail, Holbok was most likely fully aware of what was going on in the firm. In one of the conversations one can hear that Mengyi is in negotiation with the owner of KSC, discussing the financial details, meaning who will receive what portion of the 600 million.

Whoever interfered at the level of the ministry saved Mengyi from a much more serious charge. The tender was rewritten, and therefore the deal couldn’t proceed. As it stands, Mengyi and his co-conspirators are accused only of attempted fraud.

Now it is up to Péter Polt to contain the investigation to the smallest possible circle. If the investigation goes much further, it could reach high officials in the ministry of human resources and perhaps even in the prime minister’s office. After all, there are rumors that even undersecretaries might be part of the conspiracy to illegally acquire EU money. Szilvia B. talked about her close relationship with Nándor Csepreghy, deputy of János Lázár. I’m sure that Polt will do his best as usual. Maybe the whole thing will peter out and Roland Mengyi will be the only one who is charged. And if Mengyi is deemed to be critically important to the party, the prosecutor’s office will probably prepare a case so full of holes that he will get off.

August 20, 2016

Roland Mengyi, the Fidesz Voldemort: from billionaire’s front man to politician

This is the story of Roland Mengyi’s sudden appearance, out of total obscurity, in high politics. The original article titled “Egy milliárdos táskahordójából lett politikus a fideszes Voldemort” (The Fidesz Voldemort went from being the bag carrier of a billionaire to a politician) originally appeared in index.hu and was translated by the staff of The Budapest Sentinel.

Earlier I reported on the findings of Attila Rajnai, an investigative journalist, who in two installments published details of the scandal in the weekly 168 Óra. Since then another installment has appeared, which strongly suggests that officers of the Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal (National Tax and Customs Administration/NAV) were ready to arrest Mengyi when he was negotiating with the two tender applicants from Tiszaújvár about a year ago. The officers’ superior, however, wouldn’t give them permission to act. Rajnai suspects that it was either András Tállai, president of NAV, or Péter Polt, the country’s chief prosecutor, who, for a while at least, saved Mengyi’s skin.

Tállai is a member of parliament, undersecretary in the ministry of interior, and, in his spare time, head of NAV, a huge organization. For one reason or other, Tállai’s appointment was of special importance to Viktor Orbán. But, at the same time, he didn’t want Tállai to relinquish his parliamentary seat in case Fidesz loses a third seat at a by-election. Hence Tállai’s multitasking challenge.

Another development in the case is a unique move by Péter Polt. He asked László Kövér, president of parliament, to initiate proceedings which might lead to the suspension of Ronald Mengyi’s immunity. In the past, the Fidesz majority of the parliamentary committee in charge of immunity cases always denied requests to suspend Fidesz members. This time, I believe, they will oblige. Tomorrow I will outline one possible way Fidesz might handle the case.

♦ ♦ ♦

Mengyi2

Official résumé: We know almost nothing about what the Fidesz parliamentary representative Roland Mengyi did prior to becoming a politician in 2010. He is not answering any questions about his earlier life. Nor is he talking about an ugly corruption scandal to which he has been connected. For this reason we looked into his past. It turns out that, while it does not appear on his résumé, he worked first for the Republican Guard, later as a driver for the front man of a billionaire entrepreneur.

Apart from his enterprising wife, an influential Fidesz city politician may have played an important part in his suddenly becoming a politician.

A typical political entrepreneur—based on his previous life this would be the best way to characterize Roland Mengyi, although his previous life is the thing about which it is possible to know virtually nothing, at least on the basis of what the politician has disclosed about himself.

When Mengyi became a Fidesz member of parliament in 2009, he wasn’t only completely unknown to voters but also within his party as well. He just appeared out of nowhere. As to what Mengyi did prior to 2010, the only thing appearing on his official résumé uploaded to parlament.hu is that, and we quote, “Public administration, free market. Former president of a public foundation, (sic).

Although we tried to ask Mengyi about the period before his career in politics, he was not willing to say anything. The Fidesz press office wasn’t able to help us learn anything about his past. For this reason we had no choice but to investigate where the Fidesz politician came from and whom he has to thank for his political career. We spoke with those who knew him from the past and had either a business or personal relationship with him. Finally the picture became clear. Mengyi was born in Tiszaújváros in 1975. He was still a child when his parents moved to neighboring Sajóörös. He attended school in Tiszaújváros where he obtained his high school diploma. He liked to do sports and in 1994 placed 10th in the junior body building tournament in the 90 kg category where he represented Tiszaújváros. Later he moved to Budapest.

His résumé doesn’t mention this either, but we know from other sources that at the end of the 1990s during the first Orbán government he worked in parliament as a member of the Republican Guard. Mengyi did not answer questions relating to this. The Ministry of the Interior, on the other hand, indicated that it could not release information about this.

One of his former colleagues told Index that he served as a security guard, and we spoke with another acquaintance of his who said he was a personal bodyguard.

One source close to him told us that he was in fact with the Republican Guard and later became the personal bodyguard of Pál Solt, then president of the Hungarian Supreme Court. At that time he was proud of the fact that he appeared in the background of a photograph of Viktor Orbán and Pál Solt.

How the driver became a lawyer

The turning point in Mengyi’s career came when he got together with the daughter of a famous Budapest veterinarian. His acquaintances at that time believe that through his girlfriend he entered an intellectual world previously unknown to him and that this influenced his future career: the simple, less intellectual, country bumpkin began studying law at the Pázmány Péter Catholic College. However, a terrible tragedy turned his family life upside down. When he was down on his luck, the veterinarian’s cousin, the billionaire entrepreneur István Petrás, took Mengyi under his wing.

Those in the billionaire’s circle say that at the beginning Petrás did not especially like Mengyi. The persons in question recollect that those belonging to the circle felt the guy of humble origins was using the intellectual medical family as a kind of springboard. “Roland was a clever guy, he learned fast, and studied law at night, he was hard working,” says an old acquaintance. Another person says precisely the opposite. A person belonging to Petrás’s circle says he doesn’t remember Mengyi for his brilliant mind.

In any event, in time Mengyi became Petrás’s confidante.

At that time Petrás was doing well. With assets amounting to many billions of forints, he was listed as one of the 100 most affluent Hungarians. There must have been real trust between the two because, between 2006 and 2008, Mengyi was listed as an owner of one of the billionaire’s companies. However, Petrás’ acquaintances believe that the future politician was needed only as a kind of front man (stróman) for the wealthy entrepreneur, who was dealing primarily in real estate and who characteristically avoided the spotlight. In other words, although Petrás paid him well, he used Mengyi as a simple errand boy and bagman. This explains how Mengyi became the chairman of the board of trustees for the Biatorbágy Health House Foundation founded by Petrás in 2006. The foundation was created for a project belonging to a public private partnership (PPP) in which Petrás was interested along with the Biatorbágy local government. The health house was eventually christened in 2009 by Gordon Bajnai’s Minister for Health, Tamás Székely. According to the minutes that can be downloaded over the internet, by then Mengyi was already a Fidesz member of parliament and thus represented the foundation in the negotiations with the local government.

It wasn’t Petrás who played a key role in Mengyi’s political career but his wife, who dealt in real estate in the 2000s and who later developed a close working relationship with Petrás. In fact, the two met through the billionaire businessman. The woman belonged to a group of businessmen whose success was largely due to their political connections. The defining individual of this circle was Róbert Juharos, who had a joint company with Mengyi’s future wife in the 2000s.

Juharos, who at one time worked at the law firm of KDNP MP György Rubovszky, was one of the founders of the Budapest 8th district chapter of Fidesz and was a member of parliament between 1998 and 2002. But his real career took place in the 8th district. Everything having to do with district development or related to property development went through his hands. Many credit him with the fact that over time a rundown district became a more secure place attractive to investors. Mengyi’s wife also benefited from being connected to Juharos, since one of her real estate companies, for example, specialized in the property of the district government. Furthermore, she, alongside her former husband, had a stake in Juharos’ law office.

Mengyi’s wife was not a simple dealer in real estate. Earlier she worked together with her lawyer husband on the sale of industrial property and on re-zoning, and she dealt with municipal properties, including those slated for demolition. That was the time when companies and private individuals of dubious reputation were able to acquire real estate very inexpensively by promising phantom projects and improvements, even guaranteeing them, which never materialized. In many cases the real estate was sold based on loose interpretations of the terms of the public tender. Juharos did so well that, in time, his name was mentioned as one of the future Fidesz hotshots, although he severely jeopardized his party career when in the middle of the 2000s Lajos Simicska became upset with him. Regardless, to this day he has been able to preserve his influence in the district under Máté Kocsis, Fidesz mayor. He is the president of the district chapter of Fidesz, is Kocsis’ adviser, and his law office contracted with the district government between 2011 and 2014.

Took up politics in secrecy

Not long after Mengyi and his future wife got together, Petrás and Mengyi had a falling out. According to acquaintances, Petrás had a very ugly quarrel with Mengyi because Mengyi concealed things from him which the billionaire believed he should have known. For example, that his protégé was getting into big politics. He only found out when Mengyi wanted to quit. “Roland wanted to leave Petrás. He asked from him his money and the promised percentages, to which Petrás reacted by telling him he was not entitled to them because the projects were not yet completed and money had yet to come in. They had an ugly quarrel, but I believe that since then they’ve patched up their relationship,” a source with a vantage point on both individuals told Index.

Those close to Mengyi believe that Juharos did a lot to help him go from being an errand boy to a politician. Many believe it was the president of the District 8 chapter of Fidesz who introduced Mengyi to how things worked in the party, and how to advance. This helped Mengyi obtain a position even though he was completely unknown within Fidesz.

It was not only Juharos who helped him, but also the lawyer who introduced him to Petrás in the first place. The lawyer personally knew one of the leading Fidesz politicians who had the final word on nominating candidates. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Mengyi became the Fidesz candidate for parliament for Tiszaújváros even though he did not reside there and played no role in the life of the party in Borsod County. Apart from the fact that he was born there and went to school there, he had nothing to do with Tiszaújváros. As we wrote in an earlier article, after the 2010 parliamentary elections, the political career of the previously unknown Mengyi began to rise. By summer it was decided that he would be the Fidesz candidate for chairman of the Borsod County Assembly in the autumn election after it was determined that the current president, Ferenc Ódor, was leaving. Mengyi was nominated by the head of the Fidesz delegation, Dezső Török, to be Ódor’s successor. We tried to ask Török about Mengyi, but he was on vacation. At the same time he indicated that, in his opinion, he was not qualified to speak about his fellow politicians.

After becoming a politician, Mengyi’s self-confidence grew. According to his acquaintances, it is entirely believable that Mengyi referred to himself as Lord Voldemort according to the wiretap records leaked by 168 Óra, because at a family event held in Tiszaújváros in 2010 the waiters called him “My Lord Lieutenant” (“Főispán uram”), and those in attendance said that wasn’t supposed to be a joke.

Poor rich people

If we look at Mengyi’s declaration of assets, the politician does not rank among the more affluent Hungarians. According to his 2011 financial statement, he already had HUF 10 million ($40,000) in savings, that is he was able to put aside 9.2 million in under a year, which means that he must have made an average of HUF 760,000 a month at minimum. One year later he inherited a house and a flat (he became the half owner), but he was no longer an owner in his company, and his savings had decreased by half. According to his most recent financial statement (2015), he bought neither a car nor a flat last year, and his savings do not amount to even HUF 4 million ($12,000). His children don’t have their own assets either. Nevertheless, his acquaintances believe that his wife owned many Budapest properties when they met her. Moreover, one of the politician’s previous companies, Park Consulting, lets out property that it owns. According to them, the Mengyi family purchased a number of pieces of property since 2010 that are not registered in the politician’s name.

Scandalous affairs

Since entering politics in 2010, his name has come up in connection with two scandals. The most memorable one was when Blikk published a list of Fidesz politicians who spent a few pleasant days in the Azores on the occasion of the European Regional Assembly. Mengyi’s name appeared on this list. In fact, it turned out that he played a central role in the scandal because the Fidesz politicians taking part in the holiday on the islands justified their trip on the basis of Mengyi’s being the county chairman of the Roma strategy.

He was once again in the spotlight in the fall of 2013 in connection with an unusual matter involving the tendering of state lands, which was uncovered by Népszabadság. The 2011 land tender was interesting because the tender was withdrawn after the deadline due to pressure from above so that the land could be awarded to people close to Fidesz.

At the time Népszabadság wrote that Mengyi played a role in the revocation of the tender. Allegedly, he was the one who ordered the head of the Bükki National Park Directorate to withdraw the tender. Among those who won the land was Mengyi’s former campaign manager, who had absolutely no previous experience cultivating land.

The biggest scandal of Mengyi’s political career, one that might even cost him his freedom, was revealed recently by 168 Óra. The crux of the matter is that social cooperatives wanted to apply last year for EU money. They claim that Mengyi would have helped in the disbursement if they gave back at first 50 percent and finally 90 percent of the money won. Instead of offering to help with an existing tender, a separate HUF 500 million ($1.8 million) tender was written for the cooperative that sought Mengyi’s help. Mengyi asked for a bribe which he referred to as “constitutional costs” (“alkotmányos költségek”) and, according to the wiretape transcripts, received HUF 5 million ($18,000), referring to himself as Lord Voldemort throughout. Roland Mengyi denies the whole Voldemort story and said he is prepared to undergo any investigation. Barnabás Futó, Mengyi’s lawyer, claims that the transcripts only refer to Mengyi, but that he himself never spoke. However, according to 168 Óra’s latest article, Mengyi participated in one of the telephone conversations.

August 18, 2016

Corruption in Hungary is a cooperative effort between government and business

Before I return to the continuing saga of the corruption scandal surrounding one of many EU-sponsored projects, I would like to call readers’ attention to a relatively new website, Hírvonal (http://hirvonal.hu/index.html), which in my estimation might be the best newsreader in Hungarian. Unlike other similar Hungarian websites, it is organized along the lines of Google News, but with many extra features that make it more user-friendly. Unlike with Hírkereső, here one can find all the articles on the same topic in one place, which is a great time saver. One can look for domestic, foreign, and economic news as well as separate items on culture, sports, science, literature, home, lifestyle, etc. And what is perhaps its best feature, it has an archives going back to May 1, the day that Hírvonal launched, where one can find all the top news items for any particular day.

And now back to the troubles of Roland Mengyi, the honorable member of the Hungarian parliament. As was expected, Attila Rajnai, the well-known investigative journalist, had more up his sleeve than he let on in his article published in the August 4 edition of 168 Óra. In that article he wrote about Roland Mengyi’s attempted bribery in connection with a 500 million forint grant for a network of social cooperatives, allegedly serving the downtrodden in one of the poorest regions in the country. If the participants had succeeded, practically the entire amount of the grant would have ended up in the hands of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

I summarized the case right after the appearance of the article. At that point there was no direct evidence of Roland Mengyi’s involvement. The transcripts of telephone conversations Rajnai got hold of spoke only about Mengyi in the third person, so Mengyi’s attorney, Barnabás Futó, the super lawyer of Fidesz leaders in trouble, could easily brush the whole affair aside as nothing more than malicious hearsay by two or three crooks from Tiszaújváros. But then came August 11, when Attila Rajnai published his second installment.

There is no longer any question about Roland Mengyi’s involvement in this criminal act. A conversation between Mengyi and one of the accused, who is called Dementor in the transcript, attests to Mengyi’s direct participation in the attempted embezzlement of EU funds. From this conversation it is clear that Mengyi has someone inside the ministry of human resources who is most likely not just his source of information but also part of the ring of conspirators. The conspirators included Mengyi as well as the firm Public Sector Consulting Kft. (KSC), whose employee, Szilvia B., came up with the proposal.

And this is the other bombshell in Rajnai’s second article on the Mengyi case. Public Sector Consulting Kft.’s majority owner is Sándor Holbok, who is described by the media as an “ősfideszes,” or “primordial member,” of the party. Before he began his business activities he was chief-of staff of and adviser to József Szájer, who at that time was an important member of the Fidesz leadership. Holbok has worked with practically all the important Fidesz leaders, including Zoltán Balog. From 2006 he has been working closely with Árpád Habony on campaign issues. A high Fidesz official described him as “a good guy who has been for the longest time one of our contacts between the leadership of the party and the business world.”

János Ádár, Mihály Farkas, László Kövér, Tamás Deutsch, and next to him on the right Sándor Holbok

János Ádár, Mihály Farkas, László Kövér, Tamás Deutsch, and next to him on the right, Sándor Holbok

Ákos Hadházy (LMP), who is the foremost expert by now on Fidesz corruption, claims that Public Sector Consulting Kft. is one of the firms specializing in what Hadházy describes as a racket by which an incredible amount of EU money finds its way into the pockets of project management companies. In a conversation with ATV he told the story of two cases in which Public Sector Consulting Kft. was involved. The municipality of Cece invited KSC and two other companies to bid to manage a program called “Let’s live healthy lives!” which would include screening tests, for which the village received 16 million forints from the European Union. KSC had the winning bid, at 16.2 million forints. Many hundreds of kilometers away the village of Lajoskomárom invited the same three companies to bid on exactly the same project. Again, the winner was KSC for the same amount of money. Neither KSC nor the other two companies had anything to do with the health sector. KSC won bids for all sorts of projects, for example, for water management programs and “human research” projects, whatever that means.

According to Hadházy, this racket works as follows. The ministry writes up a project for which there is no need whatsoever. This project is discussed with one of these project management companies, which then begins to “peddle” the project among those who would like to receive unexpected money for a project dreamed up by the ministry and the project management company. The municipalities are told that these companies will take care of everything, but they will have to get the job. Then comes an open tender, and it is obvious which company will win. Hadházy learned that corruption of this kind reaches as high as the level of undersecretaries, who tell their subordinates to turn a blind eye to these highly suspicious projects.

Although it is the ministry of human resources which is under scrutiny at the moment, Nándor Csepreghy, deputy minister of the prime minister’s office, ended up in the center of the affair for at least two reasons. One is that Szilvia B., the employee of KSC who is now in custody for her role in the Mengyi affair, boasted in one of the transcripts about her excellent relations with Csepreghy, whom she had just met at a party organized for their children. Second, Csepreghy is in charge, as Lázár’s deputy, of the disbursement of EU subsidies. Therefore, he, who unlike other Fidesz politicians is quite willing to give interviews even to opposition television and radio stations, has been talking in the last couple of days at some length about the case. Although he is circumspect in his answers to probing questions, he said yesterday morning on ATV’s Start program that KSC alone has been involved in at least 50-70 projects. Expressing his personal opinion, he announced that he will be “reassured only if the circle of writers of tenders and project managers … will be no more.” Csepreghy claims that during the 2007-2013 cycle these companies stole 1,500 billion forints (5.5 billion dollars). During the same conversation, Csepreghy tried to shift the blame for the incredible corruption that exists around the disbursement of EU funds to the former administrations. He blamed Gordon Bajnai and Klára Dobrev, Ferenc Gyurcsány’s wife. These two people were involved with EU funds, but way before the 2007-2013 cycle that Csepreghy was talking about.

I have no idea when the chief prosecutor will feel compelled to take up this case, but it will be difficult to ignore.

August 12, 2016

Stealing money from the poorest: Fidesz MP in a corruption case

Yesterday 168 Óra unveiled a spectacular corruption case that most likely involves a Fidesz member of parliament, Roland Mengyi. The case is connected to the so-called Social Renewal Operational Program of Hungary (SROP or TÁMOP in Hungarian), which promises “a better future for everyone.” According to EU sources, “it is a great project of the New Hungary Development Plan. … The overall objective is to create social, economic and regional cohesion and promote permanent growth, increasing labour market participation.” Programs like SROP/TÁMOP are the breeding grounds for corruption. Billions of forints are stolen from these funds, which are earmarked to help the poorest strata of Hungarian society, including the Roma minority.

Attila Rajnai, who is considered to be the most competent investigative journalist in Hungary, got hold of transcripts of telephone conversations recorded by the National Tax and Customs Administration (Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal/NAV) among five individuals, two of whom are already in custody.

The story began in early 2015 when a couple of men, Zsolt E. and Tibor B. of Tiszaújváros, wondered whether it would be possible to receive some money for the development of a network of “social cooperatives,” which are designed to offer work opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds and to improve their social status. Earlier they tried to get money for their project, to no avail. This time they turned to a certain Péter K., who was a good friend of Roland Mengyi, the district’s Fidesz member of parliament. A meeting with Mengyi in Budapest was subsequently arranged. Mengyi, who arrived at the meeting with another person, told the two fellows from Tiszaújváros that there is still a lot of EU money available, and if it is not spent it has to be sent back to Brussels. So, the time is opportune for their project. During the meeting Mengyi and his companion kept talking about the necessity of “discussing the matter with L,” who might have been János Lázár. They agreed that Péter K. will be the liaison between Mengyi and the applicants.

This first meeting was followed by another where Mengyi arrived with Szilvia B., a professional writer of tender applications from Public Sector Consulting Kft. During this second meeting Mengyi told them that he had “talked to the big man.” The deal would be that the recipients would have to give back 50% of the money awarded. The applicants received this news with some dismay. Yet they decided to proceed and work on their tender application to meet the December 31, 2015 deadline. To make a long story short, by the end the project was whittled down from 200 cooperatives to 20, and instead of 50% of the total they would have to give back 90%.

Source: boon.hu

Roland Mengyi. Source: boon.hu

But that was not all. Sometime in July 2015 Roland Mengyi demanded 5 million forints in cash even before the tender application was completed. The Fidesz MP called this bribe “constitutional expenses.” The two applicants had to borrow the five million. They were then confronted by another demand by Mengyi for an additional 5 million once the money is received. All of these matters were discussed in person between the Fidesz MP and the applicants.

Before any grant could be approved NAV’s investigators, who by then were hard at work on the case, informed Zoltán Balog, whose ministry was in charge of the TÁMOP grants, about the results of their investigation. The ministry at this point changed the terms of the tender, thereby disqualifying the men’s application.

At the end of 2015 five individuals were arrested: Zsolt E., Tibor B., Péter K., Szilvia B., and Márta F., the accountant who was in charge of putting together the details on the cooperatives of the future. Only Szilvia B. and Péter K. are in custody. The others were allowed to remain free while awaiting trial. The person who, it seems, hasn’t been charged is Roland Mengyi. He is not even a suspect. I should add that among the telephone conversations there are several in which János Lázár, Nándor Csepreghy, his deputy, and András Tállai, head of NAV, are mentioned as people who can have some influence on the fate of the application in question.

Roland Mengyi’s glaring absence from the list of the accused has naturally raised suspicions that, just as in so many other cases, the real culprit will get off scot free. On the other hand, Mengyi hired Barnabás Futó as his attorney. Futó usually shows up when Fidesz thinks the case is a difficult one, with possibly very serious consequences. And Futó usually delivers.

Mengyi denies any wrong doing and casts himself as the victim of criminals who want to blacken his name. But I don’t know how he will be able to deny several personal meetings with at least four of the individuals involved, two of whom are already in custody. Fidesz stands by Mengyi, but interestingly when Index approached the prime minister’s office for comments they received an odd statement on the case: “We have learned from the mistakes of the former system: we can’t allow it to happen that certain funds don’t reach those in need, or that certain interest groups profiteer from the system, or that certain con men ‘sell’ their nonexistent influence without any consequences.”

As for Roland Mengyi, whom our men from Tiszaújváros kept calling Lord Voldemort, we will return to him and his political career later.

August 5, 2016