The government decided in 2017 not to send to Brussels invoices connected to public lighting projects carried out by Elios, a company the EU’s anti-fraud office suspected of carrying out fraud, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a regular press conference on Thursday.
The EU’s anti-fraud office (OLAF) raised suspicion that Elios, a company formerly connected to István Tiborcz, the prime minister’s son-in-law, operated fraudulently in public procurement processes for public lighting projects.
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Hungarian police dropped a procedure against Elios last November, concluding that no crime had been committed. In reaction, Ingeborg Gräßle, chair of the Budgetary Control Committee and member of the European People’s Party, shared her concerns on Twitter: “The outcome of the Hungarian authorities investigations in the ELIOS case is surprising. The OLAF report contained strong evidence on fraudulent irregularities. The European Parliament’s Committee will have to analyze the results of this investigation together with DG REGI.”
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In response to a question concerning Elios, Gulyás said a certain amount of over-bidding was normal in the case of all EU tenders, and the tenders had been invited for around 110 percent of the sum available.
The ministry at the time, as the authority in charge, assessed whether over-bidding had indeed taken place, he added. In this case, the EU does not fund any more projects in the tender, regardless of whether they are subject to a dispute or not. The Elios project belonged in this category, so there was no reason to continue the related dispute with the EU, Gulyás said.
Opposition Jobbik said on Thursday that Hungary not sending the 13 billion forints (EUR 41m) worth of Elios invoices to Brussels was a tacit admission that fraud had indeed taken place. It is because of cases like this that Jobbik believes it would be important for Hungary to join the European prosecutor’s office, party MP György Szilágyi told a press conference. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, too, bears personal responsibility in this case, he added.