Prosecutors also conducted searches in three ministries in connection with the suspected corruption case of former Deputy Justice Minister Pál Völner, and the President of the Hungarian Court Bailiffs’ Chamber (MBVK), György Schadl, broadcaster RTL’s news site reported, based on the investigation documents.
The Central Chief Prosecution Office of Investigation launched a coordinated operation on November 25th. They conducted searches at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, roughly around the same time that morning. (György Schadl was already in custody on that day for suspicion of bribery, among other things, while Pál Völner was only charged later, on December 7th).
Authorities were looking for the documents of certain tenders that György Schadl and Pál Völner had previously discussed on the phone.
According to the prosecution’s charges, György Schadl, the president of the branch of bailiffs, had engaged in corrupt activities for years with Pál Völner, whom Schadl regularly paid to influence various affairs at his request. Some of these related to the bailiffs, but they also cooperated on other matters. One such case was the former state secretary’s attempt to obtain a tender for a water-powered engine for Schadl’s company.
According to a wiretapped phone conversation, the politician accused of corruption tried to arrange the opening of the tender with János Süli, the minister without portfolio in charge of the Paks expansion, who said he was “looking forward to” hearing Völner’s proposal.
The prosecutors started their search in Süli’s office at the Ministry of the Prime Minister’s Office. They were requesting the documents related to Schadl’s company, along with tenders for reduced carbon emissions.
Prosecutors searched for almost an hour for the documents, but eventually found nothing, and said there was no record of a meeting on the subject in Minister Süli’s calendar either.
The authorities eventually took a list of grants from the ministry. Ten minutes before the end of the search, Süli appeared and was also informed of the reason for the search.
It is not clear from the investigation reports how much the prosecutors revealed about the ongoing investigation to the staff of the ministries that were present during the searches. RTL asked the government whether Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or other members of the government were aware of the searches, and if so, whether they were aware of the case under investigation, but they did not receive a reply.
The investigation documents also show that the prosecutor’s office had already notified the Supervisory Authority for Regulated Activities (the group in charge of supervising tobacco retail, judicial enforcement, gambling, and liquidation) on November 10th that György Schadl had been arrested and was suspected of, bribery, among other things. The government did not disclose whether the authority had shared this information with any of the ministers or the Prime Minister himself.
Viktor Orbán had said at a press conference in mid-December in response to a question from RTL News that he first learned about the proceedings against Pál Völner on the day the prosecutor’s office requested his immunity to be revoked, which happened on December 7th. PMO chief of staff Gergely Gulyás also said the same.
FactThe Völner-Schadl scandal broke out in early December when the chief prosecutor’s office had requested the rescinding of MP Pál Völner’s immunity, who was the deputy minister and state secretary of the Ministry of Justice. Völner – who was also the ministerial commissioner responsible for the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber since August 2019 – is accused of having illegally received regular bribes of 2-5 million forints from György Schadl, the president of the branch of bailiffs over a sustained period of time. In total, the former deputy minister is suspected to have been paid HUF 83 million, among other perks, in order to appoint certain persons as bailiffs, all supported by Schadl. The case has twelve suspects, including eight bailiffs. Völner resigned from his position with immediate effect, his immunity was revoked a week later, and he later voluntarily appeared before the Central Chief Prosecution Office of Investigation. In a statement, he wrote that the prosecution’s motion was “rather obscure, superficial, contradictory, incoherent in several places,” and in some parts, it is not even clear with what crime he is being charged. According to the Fidesz politician, the prosecution’s motion also contains numerous false allegations.
President of the National Office for the Judiciary orders comprehensive investigation
Meanwhile, news site 444 reported that Hungary’s judicial system ’has been visibly shaken’ by another recently emerged story about György Schadl who, according to the prosecution’s office, wanted to oust another bailiff out of his practice. After he felt a judge at the Metropolitan Court of Budapest had obstructed his plan, he tried to have the judge removed.
To this end, he approached György Barna Senyei, the president of the National Office for the Judiciary (OBH), the administrative body of the courts. The OBH subsequently issued a statement that Senyei had indeed met Shadl but redirected him to Péter Tatár-Kis, President of the Metropolitan Court of Budapest.
Tatár-Kis admitted in an internal statement that he did meet with Schadl. In this statement, Tatár-Kis also said that he considered Schadl’s approach to be a complaint against the judge, and that a brief investigation had been launched, but “I saw no grounds for initiating disciplinary or other proceedings against my colleague.”
However, the President of OBH does not seem to be reassured by the President of the Metropolitan Court of Budapest, as he has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the case.
The investigation will look into whether complaints and notifications received by the Metropolitan Court in 2021 were handled in accordance with regulations, and will also look into the form and manner in which György Schadl lodged a complaint against a court team leader of the Pest Central District Court, and how his complaint was investigated and under which procedure.
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI