Magyar accuses Orban’s inner circle of tampering with evidence in high-profile corruption case

Magyar accuses Orban’s inner circle of tampering with evidence in high-profile corruption case
Peter Magyar speaks to reporters at an impromptu press conference outside the prosecutor’s office in Budapest on March 20. / bne IntelliNews
By Tamas Csonka in Budapest March 21, 2024

Hungary’s emerging opposition figure Peter Magyar has accused the inner circle of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of tampering with evidence in an ongoing high-profile corruption case. 

Magyar promised to present audio recordings to back up his allegations as early as next week following his first hearing as a witness at the prosecution office on March 20 in the case involving former Justice Ministry deputy Pal Volner and Gyorgy Schadl, the former head of the bailiffs' association.

Magyar was questioned for almost four hours at the Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday. Reporters and supporters waited for Magyar outside the prosecutor’s office in central Budapest.

The former husband of Justice Minister Judit Varga and a former Fidesz cadre, who broke ranks with the ruling party earlier last month, warned before his testimony in a Facebook post that he had gathered evidence that could lead to the fall of the Orban government.

The case in question surrounds one of the biggest scandals since the regime change. 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 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. At the court hearing, both Volner and Schadl denied the charges of corruption.

Besides the two top suspects, 20 other people are charged with corruption and money laundering, most of them members of MBVK.

The prosecution has recommended an eight-year prison term and a HUF25mn fine for the former Fidesz politician and a10-year prison sentence and a HUF200mn fine for Schadl.

The documents and wiretapped conversations in the case unveil a country run in a mafia-style way, where state bodies collaborate with criminals and the justice system covers up any involvement of high-ranking officials, bne IntelliNews reported earlier.

Magyar, who burst into Hungary’s political scene after the resignation of the president and the justice minister in the Fidesz paedophile pardon scandal, claims that Schadl was an associate of Antal Rogan, the head of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, who also oversees the country’s intelligence services and is in charge of government propaganda.

Magyar says the government had knowledge of the criminal proceedings some six months before the investigation was concluded and before Schadl's arrest in November 2019 as he tried to flee Hungary.

According to him, Volner was warned by government officials about the ongoing surveillance by secret services.

The most striking account of his testimony is the allegation that Rogan and his associates manipulated the prosecutorial documents. He alleged that Rogan and/or someone working for him went to the prosecutor’s office and added or deleted things from the documents.

In one of the wiretapped recordings, an associate of Schadl claims to have talked to "Toni, Barbi and Adam" about a 35-year concession tender. The government announced a tender to hand over the management of about 2,000 km of motorways and public roads in a concession that was awarded to the prime minister’s childhood friend Lorinc Meszaros, Hungary's most powerful oligarch.

Local media linked the surnames of the people in the short conversation to Rogan, his young wife Barbara and Adam Nagy, Rogan’s cabinet chief. Magyar confirmed these reports in social media. According to previous reports, investigations did not expect to uncover the involvement of the these persons in the case.

The government communication office called Magyar’s allegations unfounded, saying that Rogan has never met or talked with Schadl.

Magyar held one of the biggest political rallies in the past few years on March 15, where he announced plans to set up a new party, a third force, representing those disillusioned with the opposition and the ruling radical rightwing party.

The 42-year-old ex Fidesz cadre's entry into politics has stirred up the status quo. First polls show that he would garner at least 8% of the vote in an election. Since entering public life, Magyar has been subjected to character assassination and a slander campaign by Orban’s vast and relentless propaganda machine, overseen by Rogan,

This shifted to a level new earlier this week, as pro-Orban media accused the fresh face of the opposition of domestic violence. A police report from late 2020 was leaked to the press days after the successful rally. This revealed that Magyar and his wife Varga had a fight and that Magyar acted aggressively when she took the kids. The two were planning a divorce at that time, but according to Magyar they were advised against doing so. Magyar and Varga only separated after the April 2022 election.

The prosecutor's office in a statement dismissed Magyar's claims that evidence was destroyed in the prosecutor's office.

Peter Magyar wants to take revenge, because he blames the government and its members for the fact that his wife left him and he lost the positions he had acquired, Fidesz faction leader Mate Kocsis told local media.