The Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, has decided that Nitrogénművek, the country’s sole producer of artificial fertilizer, must pay a 11 billion forint (EUR 30m) Competition Office (GVH) fine before the company uses up its chances for legal recourse, GVH said on Friday.
Nitrogénművek had turned to the court regarding a request to suspend the payment until a final, legally binding decision is taken on the company’s challenge of the fine.
The Kúria said Nitrogénművek’s appeal could “last for years” and dismissed the company’s argument that paying the fine would “make its operation impossible”.
GVH said it instructed the tax authority to collect the fine, including a late payment penalty, “in the interest of protecting taxpayer money”.
GVH levied the fine on Nitrogénművek and a number of its group members in October, for a suspected cartel activity. It also fined Hőgyészi Agrokémiai and Cargill Magyarország, whom, it said, have already paid their fines.
Members of the cartel had set prices and divided up the market, while restricting imports, for years, GVH noted. It added that the illegal practices drove up farmers’ input prices and may have fed into consumer food prices.
According to Nitrogénművek owner László Bige, his rival, Sándor Csányi, one of Hungary’s most influential businessmen, is behind the authorities’ accusations as he is in close relationship with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Csányi has categorically denied this.
Bige also supported the campaign of the opposition alliance’s joint Prime Ministerial candidate, Péter Márki-Zay.
In the featured photo: László Bige. Photo by Boglárka Bodnár/MTI