Authorities have conducted searches at the offices of Budapest’s 14th district Socialist mayor and the company responsible for parking operations in the district. Shortly afterwards, it was revealed that the home of the politician was also searched. The Central Investigative Prosecutor’s Office charged Csaba Horváth with corruption. Horváth issued a statement denying any such activity, calling the accusations against him politically motivated.
According to the statement from the Central Investigative Prosecutor’s Office, the prosecution, in cooperation with the police, conducted searches and seizures today at several locations, including the building of the municipality of Budapest’s 14th district, and questioned the Socialist mayor of the district, Csaba Horváth, and “a former local politician” as suspects.
The prosecutor’s office suspects that in 2016, the current district mayor – who was a member of the Budapest City Assembly at the time – and an associate of his, tried to strike a deal with a company to operate the parking system in the district, demanding in exchange that half of the profits be paid back.
In addition to this, in September 2017, a local politician approached the same company with the offer of not using his influence against the company in exchange for HUF 3 million per month. In connection to this, the suspect received occasional cash payments of HUF 3 million on at least three occasions.
Independent MP Ákos Hadházy, who is running as the joint opposition candidate in Budapest’s 14th district, shared more details about the case.
In an earlier Facebook post, Hadházy wrote: “Unfortunately, I have heard information that this will happen, as the investigation into SYS IT Services Kft. may have links to opposition local governments.”
The company mentioned by the representative, SYS, was contracted to operate the IT systems of Budapest’s public transport operator BKV in 2019, during the term of Fidesz-backed Budapest mayor István Tarlós.
Last year, the Hungarian tax authority (NAV) raided the persons connected to the SYS group for budget fraud committed in a criminal organization. The group, consisting of more than 30 companies, is suspected of operating as an invoice factory, evading HUF 19 billion in VAT by means of fictitious invoices.
Later, Ákos Hadházy told Magyar Hang that according to his information, the prosecutor’s office is investigating an extremely complex case, one of the offshoots of which may have reached the mayor of the 14th district. It is likely that a person previously detained in the course of the investigation had made incriminating confessions about the politicians, Hadházy added. He said that there were certainly grounds for accusing Csaba Horváth, but that the prosecutor’s office should be expected to disclose exactly what crimes were allegedly committed and what evidence there was to prove them.
Hadházy also told the paper that Horváth is certainly “not the biggest fish” in the case, and the investigation’s documents reveal the involvement of many high-ranking [governing] Fidesz party officials and raise suspicions of numerous crimes. The damage caused to the state, Hadházy says, is in the billions of forints range.
Csaba Horváth: ‘My conscience is clear’
Half a day after the allegations broke, Csaba Horváth issued a statement denying any corruption activity, calling the accusations against him politically motivated.
“I did not commit the corruption activities I am suspected of, my conscience is clear,” Horváth said. He added that the “timing and motivation” of the investigation were “clearly political,” and insisted that such an investigation could not have been launched just two days later when he became an official candidate of the united opposition for the upcoming parliamentary election. (If someone becomes an official candidate, they are entitled to immunity, although the National Election Committee can later suspend it). The Socialist mayor of Budapest’s 14th district has also filed a complaint against the Central Investigative Prosecutor’s Office.
Later, the Socialist Party expressed their confidence in Horváth in a statement, repeating the district mayor’s claim about the accusation being a politically motivated attack.
“Viktor Orbán seems to be using all Putin’s tools to persecute the opposition in the campaign.[…] Fidesz has tried the same despicable method before, which is nothing more than to intimidate the opposition.
The opposition party alliance, officially named United for Hungary, which is running Csaba Horváth in the upcoming elections, reacted similarly to the news.
“We know little about the specific case at this time, but we will continue to show zero tolerance for corruption. However, it is a fact that the authorities are launching proceedings against opposition politicians and public figures timed for the election campaign. The timing is clearly politically motivated, the party alliance said.
Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony (who was also the mayor of the district between 2014-2019) talked about the case in an interview with Infostart. Karácsony said that he will talk to Csaba Horváth.
“The IT procurement of BKV was won by a company under the István Tarlós administration, which was accused of fictitious invoicing, and there are also personal overlaps. I have ordered a committee of investigation into this matter. And the company that won the public procurement and was accused of running the invoice mafia has been replaced by another company that carries out its tasks transparently and without subcontractors. This is important for the stability of the IT system so that we are not left without a subcontractor. I look forward to the committees’ assessment as to whether there was any violation of interest that might have raised any suspicions, either in the preparation of the procurement or in the certificates of fulfillment since then,” he said.
Featured photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI