Former MP from Hungary's ruling party named in Panama Papers

By bne IntelliNews April 4, 2016

A former MP for Hungary’s governing Fidesz party, as well as several Hungarian business figures, have been implicated in the scandal surrounding offshore accounts held in Panama. However, thus far, there appears little in the reports to alarm the government.

Former state secretary at the health ministry, Zsolt Horvath, was involved in an offshore company registered on the Seychelles while he was in parliament, Direkt36 reported on April 3. Several dozen other Hungarian businessmen were named in the offshore financial records leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in a report entitled the Panama Papers.

Like many other European governments, the ruling Fidesz party faces some embarrassment regarding the leaks published by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The party has heavily criticized public figures who held offshore companies, while Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised in the past to end the age of "off-shore knights".

The government put out a statement on April 4 stressing it has little connection to the former MP. “Although Zsolt Horvath remained a member of Fidesz, the party does not maintain any relationship with him for a long time. He does not hold any position in the party, he is not a member of the parliament or the government,” the party wrote. Horvath is responsible for his own deeds and Fidesz does not have anything to do with his private matters, the statement insisted.

The more than 11mn leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca reveal that several dozen Hungarian businessmen retain off-shore holdings, including Horvath, a minor political figure until he left Fidesz a couple of years ago. Direkt36, part of the network of media outlets to work on the files, says it will publish detailed reports about the other names in the documents in the coming weeks.

Horvath withdrew from politics after representing the country’s 8th largest city, Kecskemet, for 16 years. He has denied having any offshore interests, and failed to answer written questions from journalists.

According to the leaked documents, Horvath - who has little track record in business - was appointed director of Excelle Media International, which was registered on the Seychelles Islands in October 2013. At the time of his appointment, Horvath was still a member of the parliament, but failed to declare his position in his wealth declaration.

After his departure from politics, Horvath became a shareholder in another Seychelles company, Mayer & Collins Trading, in September 2014. The documents do not reveal the owners of either of the companies linked to the former Fidesz man.

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