New details have emerged in the case of Fidesz MP and former Deputy Minister of Justice Pál Völner and György Schadl, the President of the Hungarian Court Bailiff’s Chamber (MBVK), who are accused of bribery. The politician and the head of the bailiffs did their business so openly that it seems they didn’t even fear being caught at all. So much so, that on one occasion Schadl handed over 3 million forints to Völner right at the entrance of the Ministry of Justice building, according to investigation documents obtained and published by news site 444.hu.
According to the telephone conversation intercepted by the police, Schadl offered to visit Völner at work and give him a “nameday present” (although his nameday is celebrated in a different month, so Schadl most likely said it jokingly). Schadl parked in front of the ministry and called the politician, who then turned up, took a paper bag from Schadl, put it in his car, after which they headed to a restaurant together.
The property assets of the arrested leader of the bailiffs’ branch has grown considerably in recent years, rtl.hu reports
. According to the news site, between 2016 and the end of 2020, György Schadl bought at least nineteen apartments, business premises, plots of land or cellars, and nine of these were acquired from mostly governing Fidesz-led municipal property, many of them from the district previously led by incumbent Cabinet Chief Antal Rogán.
This was the twenty-first such incident, and also the last time when the leader of the bailiffs’ branch handed over bribes to Pál Völner, 444.hu reported. (The first time is suspected to have occurred on the very day he took his parliamentary oath).
According to the article, Völner and Schadl felt so untouchable that they were not afraid to mention specific names in their phone conversations, and the leader of the MBVK even told one of his subordinates on the phone:
“Listen! Write down that I’m taking a triple for our friend, for whom I usually do!”
The “triple” here is most likely three million forints, and “our friend” is Völner, to whom he had taken the same amount of money months earlier. On another occasion, Schadl handed the money to Völner in his office, along with a bottle of alcohol.
Serious corruption allegations
The corruption charges against Pál Völner hit headlines in early December. According to the prosecutor’s office, Völner had regularly received 2-5 million forints from György Schadl, the president of the branch of bailiffs, who was arrested in early November. In total, the former deputy minister and state secretary is said to have been paid HUF 83 million, among other perks in order to appoint certain persons as baillifs, all supported by Schadl. The case has twelve suspects, including eight bailiffs. Völner resigned from his post as state secretary, his immunity was revoked a week later, and he voluntarily appeared before the Central Chief Prosecution Office of Investigation.
In a statement, he wrote that the motion was “rather obscure, superficial, contradictory, incoherent in several places,” and in some parts, it is not even clear what crime he is charged to have been committed. According to the Fidesz politician, the prosecution’s motion also contains numerous false allegations.
Recently, news site 444.hu acquired the more than 1,700-page investigation report concerning the former deputy justice minister. The documents include transcripts of telephone conversations between the politician and György Schadl. These trancripts suggest Schadl used his connections to help several law students pass their exams. The students include one of Pál Völner’s relatives, and Minister Antal Rogán’s chief of staff.
Meanwhile, it also emerged that the president of the branch of bailiffs had a diplomatic passport issued by the foreign ministry at the time he was arrested at the Budapest Airport in November. The ministry did not give an answer to 444.hu‘s question about the reason for giving him such a document, but they did inform the portal that the passport was revoked on January 3rd.
Völner’s attorney: the surveillance, tracking, and phone-tapping of the politician were illegal
After the new details emerged from the investigation documents from Pál Völner’s case, Gábor Papp, the defense attorney of the politician, sent a statement to 24.hu.
The former state secretary’s lawyer noted that the investigation documents do not support or prove the suspicions against Völner.
The defense attorney also outlined that Völner firmly claims that he never received any money from György Schadl; furthermore, Papp believes that even the wiretap transcript acquired by news site 444.hu does not refute this. According to the lawyer, the fragments of the conversation published in the press on Wednesday are excerpts arbitrarily extracted from the investigation documents and were selected by the editorial staff of 444.hu according to their liking.
The lawyer also wrote that according to Hungarian regulations, data obtained before the suspension of immunity cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings against a Member of Parliament, “which means that the surveillance, tracking and phone-tapping of Pál Völner before the suspension of his immunity were illegal.”
Papp also claimed that the person referred to in the investigation documents as “my master” is clearly identifiable, and is neither a politician nor a well-known person.
Prosecutor’s Office Rejects Charges of Democratic Coalition
Meanwhile, the Prosecutor’s Office has rejected DK’s report against the prosecutors working on the corruption case for not initiating the arrest of Pál Völner, the Prosecutor’s Office wrote in a statement.
The party filed a report on suspected misconduct of duties as Völner had not been taken into pre-trial detention or house arrest, which according to DK, “raises the possibility of exerting political influence.”
The prosecutor’s office, however, said that under the relevant legislation, the prosecutor is not obliged to request an arrest. In addition, coercive measures can only be used “if the desired objective cannot be achieved without the use of coercive measures, since arrest is not an end but a means.” Therefore, the prosecutor’s office does not consider that a crime was committed, the statement added.
Other universities start investigations
As the investigation documents of the Völner case revealed that György Schadl might have illegally helped several people pass their university exams – including Pál Völner’s relative and Antal Rogán’s chief of staff – the universities concerned have ordered internal investigations.
Firstly, the University of Pécs carried out one, which found wrongdoing in the case of one of their lecturers who helped Antal Rogán’s chief of staff pass without an exam. The teaching assistant’s right to proctor exams was later suspended.
Since then, the University of Szeged has also conducted an internal investigation. However, the institution closed the probe within a day, concluding that on the basis of the available information, no breach of the rules on exams occurred.
Later, the Pázmány Péter Catholic University also announced that they would investigate suspicions about the examinations that had appeared in the press, however, it is still ongoing.
Featured photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI