Hungarian Swimming Official Tamás Gyárfás Suspected of Orchestrating 1998 Murder
On Tuesday, Tamás Gyárfás, the former head of the Hungarian Swimming Association, was named as a suspect in the 1998 murder case of Hungarian media mogul János Fenyő by the national police headquarters ORFK.
Confirming earlier reports by news portal pestisracok.hu, ORFK said Gyárfás – whom it identified only as Tamás Gy. for legal reasons – had been taken in for questioning in connection with the case on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
Tamás Gyárfás, hiding his face in the back of a car at the National Investigation Bureau, where he was interrogated as a suspect in the 1998 murder of János Fenyő (Photo: MTI – Zoltán Mihádák)
Right-wing, pro-government blog Pestisracok.hu reported on Tuesday that the National Investigation Bureau (NNI) suspects Gyárfás of having hired Tamás Portik, the one-time head of an oil company involved in illicit deals in the nineties, “to liquidate his biggest business competitor”, Fenyő. The portal said police had “solid evidence” against Gyárfás, including a 14-year-old audio recording of a conversation he had with Portik. In particular, the bureau reportedly suspects that, on Gyárfás’ orders, Portik hired Slovak criminal Jozef Roháč to carry out the murder.
The relationship between Fenyő and Gyárfás, as well as the latter’s role in Fenyő’s 1998 killing, have been the subject of speculation in Hungary for decades.
On the evening of February 11, 1998, János Fenyő, the owner of the Vico media empire, stopped his car at a red light on Margit Street in Buda. At this point, a man jumped out of a Mitsubishi that had been following Fenyő’s car and shot the media mogul nineteen times at point blank range with a submachine gun. For decades, the case has remained unsolved.
The NNI took over the Fenyő case on October 31 last year.
The national police headquarters ORFK said on its website last week that the Fenyő investigation would resume with a view to finding the instigator of the murder.
Tamás Gyárfás and János Fenyő were among Hungary’s most important media figures of the 1990s. Fenyő, who began his career as a press photographer, lived for several years in the United States before returning to Hungary, where he launched a chain of video rental stores. This enterprise later grew into a media empire that included magazines, newspapers, and a cable TV channel, which were linked to the Hungarian underworld and the so-called “mafia wars” of the first decade of the post-Communist era.
Reportedly, Fenyő harbored a strong personal and professional animus toward Fenyő, who at the time was the owner of Nap TV, which broadcast shows on state television; Fenyő also served as a host of the show Nap-kelte until Nap TV’s final dissolution in 2009.
According to rumors at the time, Gyárfás and Fenyő’s personal and professional rivalry rose to such a level that it was reported that then-Prime Minister Gyula Horn attempted to broker a peace between the two media figures. In addition, the left-wing Gyárfás reportedly has a very bad personal relationship with the publishers and owners of pestisracok.hu, which could explain the pro-Fidesz blog’s intense interest in the TV personality-turned sports administrator’s alleged crimes.
During an interrogation today, Gyárfás reportedly testified at length regarding the murder; in a press release, the swimming administrator’s lawyer, János Bánáti, confirmed that his client had been interrogated by police as a potential suspect. However, Bánáti added that his client had denied any involvement in the shooting.
The statement said Gyárfás has filed a complaint over the NNI naming him as a suspect in the case and “denied the charges in the strongest terms”. During the interrogation, which Bánáti said had lasted hours, Gyárfás described in detail his dispute with Fenyő and how they had “made up”, as well as his relationship with Portik.
Gyárfás reportedly claimed that he was “stunned” to have been named as a suspect in the case, since in a past criminal procedure over his having been blackmailed, he had made himself available to investigators and told authorities everything he knew about the Fenyő case. The statement said Gyárfás had provided investigators with “comprehensive and logical answers” in his testimony concerning the blackmailing case.
Bánáti said the defense would release details in connection with the criminal procedure once Gyárfás’ 72-hour detention is up or when the court rules on his possible pre-trial detention.
Last May, the Budapest Court of Appeals upheld a life sentence for Slovak criminal Jozef Roháč for his role in the Budapest Aranykéz street bombing that claimed four lives in 1998 and the Fenyő murder on Feb. 11 of the same year. In that same ruling, the court also upheld a 13-year prison sentence for Portik for his role in the crimes. Portik was found guilty of having instigated the Aranykéz street bombing while Roháč was sentenced for having carried it out. Roháč was also found guilty of having perpetrated the murder of Fenyő.