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PM’s Private Plane Flight Stirs Controversy

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.10.01.

Last week, Orbán’s government was hit by a ‘private plane gate’ or what some describe as the biggest corruption scandal in years. Átlátszó.hu published documents, photos and drone videos depicting the use of the two luxury vehicles. They tracked the route of a private jet that crossed paths with a certain yacht several times this summer.

According to the Átlátszó team, PM Viktor Orbán used the private jet on various occasions. The airplane is connected to businessman István Garancsi, one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funded public procurements. The newspaper claims Orbán used Garancsi’s jet in order to visit his second favorite football team’s (Mol-Vidi) game in Bulgaria.

The plane also took two other football-related tours according to its flight plan.

On July 15th at the time of the World Championship, the plane flew to Moscow. According to press reports, the PM appeared at the game and also met with Vladimir Putin. Átlátszó alleges that Orbán used the jet during the games.

Others also used the plane: Beatrix, the daughter of the Prime Minister’s friend, Lőrinc Mészáros, was among them, as well as Gábor Végh, owner of football club ZTE.

It was discovered that the jet arrived at the docking place of a particular luxury yacht. The yacht is a Benetti Crystal 140 model and named Lady Mrd. It was built in 2015 in the Benetti factory in Italy and is 42 meters long, 9 meters wide and can accommodate 10 guests who are served by a crew of seven. The luxury yacht was up for sale last year for 20.9 million euros.

Átlászó.hu filmed Lady Mrd in Croatia using a drone. The three men in Átlászó’s video were: Róbert Homolya, president of the Hungarian state railway company (MÁV); businessman, László Szíjj and government commissioner, Ernő Kovács.

According to the newspaper, László Szíjj is a business partner of Lőrinc Mészáros. Szíjj’s most significant company is Duna Aszfalt. The aforementioned businessmen often win state tenders in Hungary.

The government tries to minimize the importance of the case

In a regular press conference, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office stated the reports were part of a smear campaign related to the EP elections. Gergely Gulyás claimed Orbán had not received the favor as a public official. In any case, its related value had not reached the limit set by the relevant act of parliament. Besides, it was a fraction of the monthly allowance for a lawmaker, he added. Gulyás also addressed reports concerning a yacht trip enjoyed by the chief executive of the Hungarian national rail company, MÁV. The official, he said, had been appointed to his post after having taken the trip, but he agreed that the head of a public company should be more cautious.

István Hollik, the speaker of the Fidesz-KDNP coalition, said on ATV that the plane would have taken off with or without the PM. Therefore, Orbán did not receive a present from Garancsi. “This is how friendship works; [Garancsi] brought the PM where he would have gone anyway. István Garancsi is said to be the PM’s friend of 20 years,” Hollik explained.

Átlátszó can easily be discredited by pro-government pundits due to donations it received from the Soros-backed Open Society Foundation. As a result, the article can be seen as a political attack against the government prior to the European election. Tamas Bodoky, the editor in chief at Átlátszó, provided more ammunition for the pro-government newspapers by sharing a photo taken with Judith Sargentini. Bodoky posted the photo with the accompanying text: “Celebspotting and a big thank you for Judith Sargentini.”

The opposition parties seemed eager to seize the opportunity to attack the government Párbeszéd pressed charges against Viktor Orbán and Jobbik has called for an amendment that would ban politicians from receiving any gifts from businessmen who run for state procurements. LMP also criticized the flights; Antal Csárdi noted that the tours cost tax payers billions of forints because Garancsi received overpriced state procurement.

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