Changing the first instance judgment, the Metropolitan Court of Appeals has found former Jobbik MEP, Béla Kovács, guilty of charges of espionage. The former politician was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for a period of five years.
Although last year the court of first instance acquitted the former politician of espionage and only sentenced him for defrauding the EP budget, on Wednesday the Metropolitan Court of Appeals changed the verdict and found him guilty of also preparation of espionage. The previously imposed 1.5-year suspended prison sentence was increased to two years, suspended for five years.
The case of Béla Kovács dates back to 2014 when Hungary’s internal security intelligence agency filed a report against him after it was revealed by the civil national security services that he had regularly met Russian diplomats and paid monthly visits to Moscow.
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. Due to the suspicions, he was nicknamed “KGBéla” in the Hungarian press.
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 EU provides financial aid for each intern, so according to the charges, Kovács caused HUF 6 million in damages to the EU Parliament. The EP later 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.
The first instance court acquitted him of charges of espionage but sentenced him to a suspended prison term of 18 months and fined him HUF 600,000 (EUR 1,640) for defrauding the EP budget.
The second instance court changed the first instance judgment. Kovács’s prison sentence was increased to two years with a probation period of five years. The court also found the politician guilty of budget fraud and forgery of private documents.
Kovács did not appear in court for the verdict. According to pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, he was stranded in Russia because of the pandemic and has been staying there ever since.
The former MEP has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“After 2010, I did all my work as an MEP in the service of Hungary and the Hungarian people, and not in the interests of a foreign power,” he said in his court speech last year.
Featured photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI