The Szájer scandal was included in the agenda at the national security session of parliament this week. Brigadier General Zsolt Bunford, the head of Hungarian intelligence, said that the Information Office knew nothing about the Szájer case. Therefore, they have no information on whether any foreign service leaked the news of the police action after the party in Brussels to the Belgian press. At the same time, security policy experts claim that Hungarian intelligence services should have known about Szájer’s lifestyle and the threat it posed, as well as that the scandal was a professionally prepared trap. While sources close to Fidesz say that “everyone in the party has known for thirty years what the risks are” with Szájer.
At a closed meeting, Zsolt Bunford, Director General of the Information Office, reportedly said that the Hungarian intelligence service had not been aware of the risks related to the private life of Fidesz MEP József Szájer, emphasizing that it would not be their task. Nor do they know whether any foreign service may have had anything to do with the news of the police action following the party in Brussels being leaked to the Belgian press. A source of hvg.hu who participated in the meeting, said that “Even if not with those words, but they replied either yes or no.” To the suggestion that the Belgian authorities usually notify the Hungarian counterparts in such cases, Bunford said that the proceedings were not yet at such a stage, so they had not received a signal yet.
József Szájer, Fidesz MEP and founding member of the party, resigned
from his EP mandate on November 29th, saying that participating in the daily political struggle had been “an increasing mental strain” on him for some time. However, two days later it turned out that prior to his resignation, he had attended a male sex party in Brussels that had been disbanded by the police due to restrictions imposed by the epidemic. Drugs were also found at the party. Szájer admitted in a statement that he was present at the “house party” but claimed he had not used drugs. He quit
Fidesz a few days later.
Earlier, during the meeting, opposition representatives were allowed to ask Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó about the case regarding József Szájer. The Jobbik chairman of the board, János Stummer, Zsolt Molnár (MSZP), and Péter Ungár (LMP) inquired about how the Foreign Minister could only be informed about the events a few days later. Szijjártó explained that although according to the National Security Act, the Information Office under his supervision provides national security protection for Hungarian members and facilities important to government activities, this only applies to foreign missions, diplomats, and staff working there. As far as the European Parliament and its representatives are concerned, the Information Office has no powers, the Office is only responsible for the national security control of its own staff.
The minister, who supervises the intelligence service, said that he only learned about the scandal from the press a few days later, as the Information Office cannot carry out activities related to the exploration and evaluation of lifestyle-related information and phenomena that affect others. However, according to Socialist MP Zsolt Molnár, if an event occurs that affects Hungary’s sovereignty, authority, diplomatic and political judgment, then all secret services have a duty.
The previous two statements are also interesting because former intelligence officers said that the intelligence service must have known about Szájer, while pro-government opinion leaders commented that “everyone in the party has known about the risks associated with Szájer for the past 30 years.”
László Földi, the former operations director of the Information Office, told both pro-government channel HírTv and pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet that it is probable that József Szájer was the victim of an intelligence operation. József Horváth, a security policy adviser and former deputy director general of military response, spoke to Demokrata about the same thing.
According to Földi, all the world’s leading secret services are present in Brussels. When asked by Magyar Nemzet, the former intelligence officer said that the curfew imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic was a good opportunity to lay a trap for Szájer, as all secret services knew where politicians belong in terms of their sexual identity, what communities they visit. Presumably, an acquaintance from similar circles – fulfilling an assignment – simply invited him to the party. They participated above the allowed number at the gathering, so violation of the law immediately took place. He later confirmed this, saying: “As I mentioned, Szájer’s sexual identity had been a known fact to all intelligence agencies for many years.”
Concerning the responsibility of the Hungarian intelligence service, he said it cannot possibly be known what information they had, or whether they had warned the politician, but in the current tense political situation, even friendly partners could act against the country’s interests and matters.
According to József Horváth, another pro-Fidesz former intelligence officer, “if I take into account all the circumstances, I see that it was a professionally prepared trap.” Speaking about the responsibility of the Hungarian secret service, he said that abroad, prevention plays the biggest role. He said “it is necessary to reveal, for example, what attacks, blackmail, and extortion surfaces around outgoing politicians or diplomats, and what the weight of these risks is. Here also comes the vital enlightenment, preparatory work, during which the person concerned must be told how to avoid the pitfalls lurking around him, how to protect himself from provocations, and so on.”
Péter Tarjányi, a leftist security policy expert, told left-leaning ATV Híradó that the Hungarian and Belgian governments should have known about the Szájer case the day after the orgy. According to the international protocol, after a crime, the Belgian Ministry of the Interior must first notify the Brussels police, who are then able to report it to the Hungarian embassy in a short time, from where the news could reach the Hungarian government within minutes. Thus, it is quite interesting that Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó only learned about what happened from the news days later.
Fidesz founding member and their No. 1 opinion leader Zsolt Bayer also spoke about the case on Hír Tv’s Háttérkép, analyzing it with his guests from a Fidesz perspective. One of his guests, László Bogár, who was a state secretary under the first Orbán government, spoke openly about the fact that “everyone” in the party has known for thirty years what the risks are with “Jóska.”
In the featured photo: former Fidesz MEP József Szájer. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI