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Former Jobbik MEP Béla Kovács Acquitted of Espionage to Russia, Sentenced only on Fraud Charges

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.09.24.

Béla Kovács, a former Jobbik MEP, has been acquitted of charges of espionage to Russia but sentenced to a suspended prison term of 18 months and fined HUF 600,000 (EUR 1,640) for defrauding the EP budget, the Greater Budapest Court said.

The Constitutional Protection Office, Hungary’s internal security intelligence agency, filed a report against Kovács in April 2014, after it was revealed by the civil national security services that he had regularly met Russian diplomats and paid monthly visits to Moscow. Due to the suspicions, he was nicknamed “KGBéla” in the Hungarian press, in reference to the Soviet Union’s infamous foreign intelligence and domestic security agency. The European Parliament lifted Kovács’s immunity in October 2015.

Charges were filed in early December of that year on suspicion that he had spied against EU institutions for Russia between 2012 and 2014.

In 2017, the EP lifted his immunity in connection with another case. Hungary’s chief prosecutor Péter Polt requested the procedure, citing information from the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, which suggested that between 2012 and 2013, Kovács hired four interns who never turned up in Brussels, nor did they do any work. The EP then merged the two investigations. In the same year, he was charged by the Hungarian prosecutor with budgetary fraud, as well as betrayal of public trust.

Last week, the prosecutor’s office sought seven years of prison time in a maximum security prison for the former Jobbik MEP Béla Kovács.

The MEP has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Featured photo illustration by Tamás Kovács/MTI