Weekly newsletter

In the wake of the publication of a new recording in which a well-known businessman makes accusations against the city leadership, the Budapest Mayor has said that the capital has come under attack from the ruling parties. Gergely Karácsony is filing a report with police in connection with “slanderous” tape recordings that were allegedly made when municipal officials were discussing property deals.

As we previously reported, the Budapest leadership has long been under fire after a number of recordings were released along with allegations claiming that certain circles close to the leadership might have wanted to sell City Hall and some adjacent buildings in the downtown area. At first Karácsony denied everything, then after a second audio recording surfaced, he eventually admitted that the sale was only an option that they had taken off the table about one and a half years ago.

Yet while there is still no evidence proving any wrongdoing, Karácsony has been on the defensive for quite some time now.

Mayor Karácsony Issues Reprimand to Head of Budapest Capital Asset Management Center
Mayor Karácsony Issues Reprimand to Head of Budapest Capital Asset Management Center

Balázs J. Barts made a serious mistake when he presented an old study in connection with the City Hall property that no longer had any relevance, having been rejected by Karácsony's administration, a statment said.Continue reading

The new recording

In the latest turn of events, a new recording was published on Tuesday about a “commission system” regarding City Hall’s real estate transactions. In the recording, businessman Gyula Gansperger can be heard talking to an unknown person, making serious allegations about city hall leaders.

Fact

In the 90s and around the millennium, Gyula Gansperger was Fidesz’s background player, mainly responsible for privatization: during the first Orbán-led government he led the Hungarian Privatization and State Holding Company (ÁPV Rt). He also held a leadership role as asset manager at car rental company, Wallis, where he got to know former left-liberal Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai.

Now, Gansperger talks about the commission scheme after having described the players, including real estate broker Zsolt Berki, Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss, and former (left-liberal) Justice Minister Csaba Tordai, who now works as Karácsony’s legal advisor. The term “commission system” could be a code word for “soap money,” (i.e. corruption).

“Csaba Tordai [lawyer and a confidant of mayor Karácsony] is not dealing with money. So he is not in the commission system which I have to pay to Zsolt. It’s only towards [deputy mayor] Ambrus Kiss,” Gansperger explains in the recording, somewhat vaguely without elaborating on the subject. He then talks about the sale of a property on Budapest’s Bécsi Road. “Now it must have been something, because Zsolt [Berki] switched his car. You have to watch out you know,” Gansperger concludes.

Fidesz wants a “meaningful investigation”

Earlier, Zsolt Láng, Fidesz group leader in Budapest, called for a “meaningful investigation.” After this latest recording, the Budapest Fidesz-KDNP group repeated its call on Karácsony to convene an extraordinary session of the city assembly.

On its Facebook page, the group issued a statement accusing Karácsony of refusing to “face the facts” regarding the discussions in connection with municipal property, and they called on the mayor to commence proper fact-finding regarding the “City Hall case.”

Budapest leadership: Fidesz attacked the capital

“We are here to repel a vile and mendacious attack,” Karácsony began the press conference organized in response to this new audio recording, explaining that there were three ways to beat back the offensive. First, they must stand up for each other. “I will put my hand in the fire for Kiss Ambrus,” he said in reference to his deputy involved in the recording.

Secondly, he announced to file a report with police in connection with “slanderous” tape recordings that were allegedly made when municipal officials were discussing property deals.

Thirdly, they will make decisions on the capital’s asset management even more easily accessible, which were already public, “but the journalists are clearly overloaded, some of whom fail to even take into account the most basic facts,” he said, referring to (Fidesz-linked) Index, the outlet behind the publication of the recordings. (Indamedia’s owner is the fast-emerging pro-Fidesz media mogul, Miklós Vaszily, and the formerly government-critical portal made a remarkable change in direction in the past 14 months when the whole staff left due to overwhelming pressure).

Both Kiss and Karácsony insisted that they didn’t know about anything on the recordings- they had never met either Berki or Gansperger, whom the mayor described as a Fidesz-linked businessman. As a consequence, Karácsony said it was an absurd claim that an internal investigation should be launched. “There is nothing to investigate here, there is only the denunciation, and the court will judge on the basis of the facts,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss also stated at the press conference that the voices on the recording were unknown to him, and he denied the related allegations.

featured image: Karácsony and Kiss; via Noémi Bruzák/MTI