The President of the Hungarian Court Bailiff’s Chamber (MBVK) sent a total of HUF 83 million forints (EUR 226 thousand) to former deputy justice minister Pál Völner between May 2018 and July 2021 to secure favorable rulings, according to the Chief Prosecutor of Hungary. Völner, who stepped down from his position last week, has rejected the allegations, but supports the request for his immunity to be lifted in order to prove his innocence. The National Assembly is set to vote in favor of the request on Tuesday.
Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt states that Pál Völner used his position as state secretary and deputy justice minister to support officials at the Justice Ministry who were informally favored by MBVK President György Schadl. Polt also accuses Völner of:
- Helping bring Schadl’s operational, financial, and organizational ideas at the Chamber to fruition
- Using his official connections to ensure that individuals or companies specified by the Chamber President would gain funding outside of the Justice Ministry’s jurisdiction
- Using his official position and influence to involve himself in matters outside of his authority
The Prosecution also argues that the Chamber President used the illegal salary to secure the minister’s constant availability in helping secure his interests. In exchange for this support, they say, the MBVK President would influence the Chamber to the benefit of Völner’s official position.
The Prosecution also accuses Völner of using his position to influence funding applications and other jurisdictional procedures to the benefit of Schadl. The two are believed to have been cooperating outside of their work, meeting in restaurants or by Völner’s car. Over time they created and operated a hierarchy in which the former minister’s only contact for communication was the Chamber President.
Despite accusing Völner of accepting 83 million forints in bribes, 24.hu notes that the Prosecution only lists 67 million forints (EUR 182.5 thousand) in their report.
Völner Rejects Chief Prosecutor’s Accusations
Völner, who resigned from his position last week, accused the Chief Prosecutor’s report of containing countless unfounded accusations, to which he will only react with “the involvement of investigative authorities.”
The proposal which the Chief Prosecutor has initiated against me is indistinct, poorly organized, self-contradictory, and inconclusive in multiple areas. Certain parts do not even clarify what crime the Chief Prosecutor alleges me of.”
Still, Völner has voiced his interest in proving his innocence, thus he supports the Prosecution’s proposal of lifting his immunity. His lawyer, who argues that the former state secretary did not commit any crimes, stated last Tuesday that Völner will “take political responsibility and tender his resignation.”
National Assembly to Lift Völner’s Immunity
The Hungarian National Assembly is voting on the lifting of Völner’s immunity on Tuesday. Fidesz has already stated that government representatives will be voting in favor of the ruling, as Völner requested his immunity to be lifted on Friday. The opposition wants to go even further than a hearing of the former state secretary.
Olivio Kocsis-Cake, a representative of leftist green party Párbeszéd in the immunity committee, argues that Justice Minister Judit Varga and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s responsibility in the matter should be investigated too. Kocsis-Cake, considering Völner to be “Judit Varga’s most important confidante, her most important right hand,” wants to know why the former state secretary was put in charge of authorizing surveillance requests.
The former deputy minister has been accused of enabling the unjust surveillance of Hungarian journalists, opposition leaders, and businessmen using NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware.
Featured photo illustration by Tibor Illyés/MTI