The prosecutor’s office asked for the imprisonment of László Bige, one of the richest people in Hungary, and the confiscation of HUF 135 million forints of bribe money, news site 24.hu reports.
The first time Bige’s name appeared in police news was in the autumn of 2018, when the businessman’s sulfuric acid plant in Szolnok was raided by several hundred law enforcement officers. Police at the time said they were investigating violations of the waste management law and other crimes. Authorities closed the plant and started an investigation against the businessman, often referred to in the press as the “synthetic fertilizer king,” for bribery, fraud, and violation of the anti-trust law as well. László Bige even spent two days in custody at the end of May last year.
After authorities have suspended the operating license of the factory, it reopened in the summer. In October, the court ruled that the plant shutdown was unlawful.
László Bige claimed authorities closed his factory only due to his long-running dispute with arguably Hungary’s most influential businessman, OTP Bank chairman and CEO Sándor Csányi. Bige said that his rivalry with Csányi, who has a close relationship with PM Viktor Orbán, dated back a long time. He also talked about the fact that in Hungary he couldn’t expect any help against any attacks, because all power was in the hands of the prime minister.
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Csányi rejected Bige’s accusations stating that he had no intention to buy any company belonging to the Bige Group.
According to 24.hu, Bige has since been charged, but the prosecution did not want to reveal any details about the case.
The news site, however, found a court statement that, while not naming Bige (only referring to an “entrepreneur”) but describes the alleged crime. According to this, he is accused by the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Attorney General’s Office of committing bribery on a commercial scale, as according to the indictment, he asked for and received HUF 135 million from his company’s client.
The prosecutor’s office is asking for a prison sentence with the exception the defendant testifies at the preparatory meeting and waives his right to a trial. In that case, the prosecution would accept a deal of two years in prison, suspended for five years, the portal writes.
In his response, the businessman’s lawyer said that “the concept of the charge of bribery is completely unfounded.”
Featured photo illustration by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI