Hungary’s attorney general has asked the speaker of parliament to lift the immunity of MP and deputy justice minister, Pál Völner. The Fidesz politician has also been the ministerial commissioner responsible for the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber since August 2019. He is accused of having illegally received regular payments of 2-5 million forints (EUR 5,500-13,700) from the president of the branch of bailiffs over a sustained period of time. Details are not yet known. In the meantime, the state secretary has announced in a press release that he is resigning from his position.
This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute.
News about a criminal investigation launched against the President of the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber surfaced weeks ago. At the time it was only known that György Schadl was arrested together with his wife at the airport when they were about to leave for Dubai. Since then, several newspapers have contacted the relevant authorities in vain, but no one has provided any information. On Thursday, the head of the prime minister’s office was also asked about the case, but Gergely Gulyás could not answer exactly what Schadl was suspected of. At that point, any political ties to the story were unknown, but independent MP Ákos Hadházy, known for his battle against corruption in Hungary, suspected that someone in the highest circles could be affected- hence the news blackout.
Today, the Chief Prosecutor named Pál Völner, the Deputy Minister of Justice, in his statement.
According to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, what Völner allegedly has done “raises the reasonable suspicion that a senior official accepted bribes in a businesslike and continuous manner in order to gain an advantage by otherwise abusing his official position.” However, it is suspected that over a sustained amount of time he regularly received payments of 2-5 million forints from the President of the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber. However, proceedings against Völner can only be initiated if Parliament waives his immunity.
There are currently a total of twelve suspects in the case – eight of them are bailiffs and one is a deputy bailiff. Six suspects are currently in custody and one person is under house arrest.
A few days ago, pro-government news site origo.hu wrote that personal revenge could be behind the scandal, but did not mention the political aspect.
In his statement sent to the editorial office of 24.hu, Völner wrote that he did not commit any crime and carried out his duties as Secretary of State and Ministerial Commissioner with integrity and in accordance with the law, but that he accepts the political consequences of the case and tenders his resignation today from his post as Secretary of State. He also added that he would cooperate with the authorities.
Völner key figure in Pegasus case
Pál Völner’s name often surfaced in the Hungarian press in recent months, following press reports in the summer claiming that several public figures have likely been monitored in Hungary using Israeli military-grade spyware Pegasus. The deputy justice minister was said to be the one responsible for giving permission for this. The politician was questioned about this several times, but has not yet given definitive answers, citing confidential data about which Hungarian citizens were to be surveilled with Pegasus, and what the reasons could be for this.
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI