Former Fidesz insider presents damaging evidence to prosecutor's office in high-profile corruption case

Former Fidesz insider presents damaging evidence to prosecutor's office in high-profile corruption case
/ bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 28, 2024

High-ranking government officials manipulated evidence in a high-profile corruption case, former Fidesz insider Peter Magyar said on March 26 after taking the oath and presenting his evidence to the Budapest Investigative Prosecutor's Office, based on a secretly recorded conversation with his ex-wife and former justice minister Judit Varga.

Magyar posted a two-minute audio recording online on March 26, in which the two discussed a corruption investigation related to the bribery scandal of bailiffs and the involvement of government officials in tampering with evidence.

The recordings were made in January 2023 in the couple’s home a few months before they filed for divorce. Varga is heard on the audio recording saying that Rogan (Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office leader) and his people suggested to the prosecutors what should be removed from the evidence in a corruption case, involving Varga’s subordinate.

According to the indictment, former Hungarian justice ministry state secretary Pal Volner received kickbacks from Gyorgy Schadl, the head of the Hungarian Chamber of Bailiffs (MBVK), for years for helping with the appointments of bailiffs. Schadl used his power to sell bailiff licences for kickbacks and blackmailed people to remove them from lucrative positions if they had not paid him.

Schadl was arrested trying to flee Hungary in November 2021 and Volner resigned a few weeks later after he was indicted There are also references in the audio recording to Magyar's other two important allegations, namely that Rogan, who oversees government propaganda and Hungary’s secret services as well, knew all along about the corruption case.

Varga is also heard on the audio recording saying Volner was tipped off by senior government officials about the ongoing surveillance. "They told him to stop (...), but he didn't," referring to the former state secretary continuing to receive kickbacks every month from Schadl.

The secret surveillance, in what may be one of the biggest corruption scandals in the last decade, originally targeted a corrupt tax official, but the threads later led investigators to follow the head of MBVK and the former justice minister state secretary.

The wiretapped conversations revealed Schadl as an influential figure, giving favours to the Fidesz elite, and helping relatives and friends to pass exams among others.

A day before Magyar testified, he told local media that Judit Varga told him that "this is a mafia government that you can't get out of". This bit was not included in the audio revealed by Magyar, as according to his own account, he had started to record the conversation just after that comment.

After weeks of silence following the clemency appeal, Judit Varga became active on social media again, accusing her former husband of domestic violence in several Facebook posts. She did not deny the content of the audio, but said she was under pressure: "I said what he wanted to hear, so I could get away as soon as possible."

The charges of domestic violence have now become part of the main narrative of the government and pro-Orban media to discredit Magyar. The character assassination has intensified after his successful political rally on March 15, where Magyar announced the launch of a new political party, a third force, targeting people disenchanted with the political establishment. 

The government's narrative is seen as an effort to divert attention from the serious allegations made by Magyar.

News coverage in pro-government outlets highlighted Magyar’s "flawed character", portraying him as an unscrupulous and aggressive figure, an opportunist seeking to forge a new career after his divorce with Varga and his loss of positions in several state companies. Pro-government media did not bother covering comments made by Varga on the tap on  government officials attempting to falsify evidence

Following his testimony, on Tuesday, Magyar called on his followers to demonstrate in front of the Supreme Prosecutor's Office building. Thousands of people gathered at the impromptu demonstration on Tuesday night at Kossuth Square in front of the Parliament building.

Magyar stated that Hungary had sunk into its greatest political, moral and legal crisis since the transition, within a few weeks, due to covering up paedophilic crimes, grace scandals, corrupt executors and government members. "We will not allow the greatest political and judicial scandal of the last thirty years to be stifled," he told the crowd.

He called for an independent investigation on the matter and called for the resignation of Attorney General Peter Polt, a former Fidesz MP, who is accused of covering up crimes of the ruling elite. Magyar convened a gathering for April 6, where he expects hundreds of thousands to demand Orban and his "mafia government" to leave.

The emergence of the former Fidesz whistleblower could reshape Hungary’s political landscape, as the number of undecided voters has risen to historic highs following the recent clemency scandal rocking Hungary. The country's largest protests in years erupted in early February when it was revealed that the president had issued a pardon to a man imprisoned for covering up child sexual abuses by the director of a state-run orphanage for years. The scandal wrecked Fidesz's carefully burnished image as the defender of families and children against western gender ideology. 

The ruling nationalist party has lost more than 300,000 voters in one month and incendiary details of the unravelling of the checks and balances could further erode support.