Kuruc.info’s Béla Varga of California and Mór

Péter Szijjártó received the fancy title of undersecretary in charge of international communication, but in fact he was demoted. János Lázár, the man Viktor Orbán moved from his positions as mayor of Hódmezővásárhely and leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, became chief of staff in the prime minister’s office, and he immediately decided to do a thorough spring cleaning. Lázár obviously convinced Orbán that Szijjártó, who is the object of ridicule at home, should be let go. Unfortunately, I don’t think that sending him all over the world will do much for his or the country’s reputation.

Szijjártó began his foreign trips by visiting Washington for two or three days. He talked to some people in the State Department and met some of the “most important Jewish leaders” in the United States. He asked them to lend a helping hand to silence kuruc.info, the notorious anti-semitic site that uses a server in the United States. As we discussed at length on July 5 and after, and as László Bartus wrote in Népszava, although the server–Cloudfare as some of our readers discovered–operates from the United States, kuruc.info is edited and published in Budapest. The problem must be remedied in Hungary. Especially as there is a strong possibility that one of kuruc.info’s benefactors, Béla Varga, a winemaker in California, also has a winery in Mór, Hungary.

Varga’s name was widely circulated in 2010 when Tamás Bodoky, an investigative journalist, reported on the financial dealings of kuruc.info and discovered that the advertisers receive no receipts and that the fees must be paid either in U.S. dollars to the bank account of Béla Varga or delivered as cash in a sealed envelope and given to an employee of  Turania, a small shop in District VI. These financial transactions are clearly in violation of the tax laws in both Hungary and in United States.

Why do I write about this particular case today? Because Béla Varga’s name cropped up again, this time in connection with the flashmob organized in front of the house of László Csatáry, who is being investigated for war crimes. A day after the event kuruc.info called on its readers to identify the members of the group who took part in the demonstration. The editors proudly announced that they already managed to learn the identity of “seven anti-Hungarian Jews,” adding that “those who manage to send the most usable data will receive 100,000 forints, 75,000 of which was donated by our brother-in-arms Béla Varga, who lives in the United States.”

Pusztaranger, the excellent German-language blog, also reported on the case. According to the Ranger, within 48 hours 93,000 people read kuruc.info and managed to identify most of the participants. Since then the participants have been harassed on the Internet and by telephone. The Ranger collected a large amount of material on Varga from earlier Hungarian sources, adding some research of his own.

I was intrigued and decided to learn a little more about this Béla Varga. I discovered among other things that the self-portrait Mr. Varga provides in the United States has little resemblance to reality.

First, I couldn’t quite believe that Béla Varga of Napa Valley, California, is the same person as Béla Varga of Mór. Their life stories were so radically different. Let’s start with the Californian Varga. Varga is hailed in wine circles as a very talented winemaker who between 1999 and 2007 was the head of the operations of Claar Cellars. He is described as “a Hungarian by birth who received his Masters Degree in Enology and Viticulture from Budapest University.” In 2007 he changed jobs. He was hired as the winemaker of Callaway Vineyard&Winery. In the press release he is described as someone “with stellar winemaking credentials.” From the press release we find out that he received his M.S. from Budapest University in 1988, the same year he climbed “over the Iron Curtain and scaled barbed wire fences to leave leave his native country. He ended up in Canada where he worked for eight years as winemaker for Vincor, Canada’s largest producer and marketer of wine and related products.”

We also learn from the press release that Béla Varga is a talented jazz pianist. “At the young age of five, Varga began playing the piano by ear and was immediately enrolled in music education schools. He graduated from the Budapest Jazz Conservatory in 1985 and has played with Moe Koffman, Maynard Ferguson and Pat Metheny.”

Béla Varga of California

One doesn’t have to go any farther to know that something is not quite right with the information Varga provided to his new employers at Gallaway Vineyard&Winery. Although it is true that graduates of ELTE (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem) often try to simplify the name of the university and call it simply University of Budapest, ELTE has no Department of Enology and Viticulture.  There is such a department at Gödöllő Agrártudományi Egyetem (nowadays called Szent István Egyetem, Gödöllő). Then I began to look for the Budapest Jazz Conservatory, but the only thing I came up with was the Egressy Béni Zeneművészeti Szakközépiskola és Gimnázium. There they teach jazz, but the trouble is that this high school opened its doors only in 2002 and the first students of the school graduated only in 2006. There is also the problem of climbing over the barbed wire between Austria and Hungary. By then the barbwire fence was mostly gone. Moreover, by then Hungarians could travel freely to the West. Our man most likely simply decided to stay behind.

Béla Varga of Mór

Now let’s see the bio of Béla Varga of Mór where he is the owner of Varga és Fia Pincészet. His own father was already a vintner in the Balaton region. Our man claims that he began learning the ins and outs of winemaking in the Élelmiszeripari Szakközépiskola (a high school specializing in the food industry). His schooling entitled him to the title of “technician” and he worked as such at the Badacsonyvidéki Pincegazdaság in Ászár for a year and a half. After serving two years in the army in 1978, he got a job at the Móri Állami Gazdaság.

At this point Varga resorts to some verbal tricks to conceal the fact that in 1988 he left Hungary and asked for political asylum in Canada. So, if he spent nine years with the vineyards of Mór, he must have left the state company in 1987-88. However, he continues by saying that in 2000 “after the Móri Állami Gazdaság was liquidated” he and his son started a winery of their own on 20-30 hectars. There is a problem here. The Móri Állami Gazdaság was liquidated in 1990 and not in 2000.  Thus, through clever wording Béla Varga’s and his son Máté’s trip to Canada and later to the United States is simply covered up.

The huge difference in the accomplishments of the two Béla Vargas confused me. No, I said, that cannot be the same man. After all, the name Varga is very common. Moreover, I found another Béla Varga who was also a vintner who is an export manager of the Tokaj Kereskedőház. But then I compared the two pictures, one given on a site that devoted considerable energy to uncovering the editors of kuruc.info and the other one that was included in a list of the top 100 vintners in Hungary. There is no doubt there is only one Béla Varga whose Hungarian vineyard is most likely managed by his son, Máté.

Apparently, the Budapest Chief Prosecutors’ Office is investigating the case. I suggest that they pay a visit to Mór to Varga és Fia Pincészet. One doesn’t have to talk to the American authorities or travel to Napa Valley, California. At the same time perhaps the Internal Revenue Service might be interested in  Béla Varga’s tax returns.

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73 comments

  1. 1. About difficulties on translating a

    Dubious :
    OT: On the difficulties of translating degrees.

    It works the other way around too. My first degree, from Budapest, was from a vocational college: “Kereskedelmi, és Vendéglátóipari Főiskola” (College for Trade and Catering) Decades later when I applied to US colleges they needed a transcript from that school. That’s when I learned that my college got combined with other colleges and is now under the umbrella organization of “Budapest Gazdasági Főiskola”. So now my official English transcript says I have a BA in Economics from the Budapest Business School. Sounds much better, doesn’t it?

    2. The website for the Red Paprika store, that was mentioned above, is down. Their Yelp.com listing has only one review from 18 months ago. However the store existed for sure a year ago, last time I was in Healdsburg, CA. I would offer to go there again and check it out, but don’t want to use the same methods as kuruc.info is using. I am wondering when was the last time Mr. Varga made any wine in the US.

  2. b.v :
    The problem with commenters’ arguments is that they presuppose, prejudicate at the incitement of the article’s writer.

    Right. Without the encouragment with would not hate nazis.

    Look. Let’s just get the facts. That Bela Varga in California and his wife Judit Varga are the people who registered the kurucz.info domain. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same people offered the blood money on the kurucz.info which is a criminal matter by the way.

    Trust me buddy. It’s open season on the guy. Somebody will find some dirt on him sooner or later, tax issues, immigration. You’ll see. Somebody will find the guys SSN and then all kind of interesting things will happen to him. So don’t try to create a Keyser Soze here. He’s a real man and he’ll burn his ass.

    On yelp there is nice photo of Mr Varga and his wife.

  3. b.v :
    Some1: Your life story is really touching. Especially the parts where special emphases are put on various extremities in connection with party officials and the final amazing catharsis. You should write a book! No kidding.

    I live the books for others. I do not claim to be a writer or have intention to start writing. I do not claim degrees I do not have (like Schmitt) for example. I did have to put the “special emphases on various extremities in connection with party officials and the final amazing catharsis” as it was YOU who claimed that I have no idea about the Hungarian situation in 1988, and the next step from you would be to say probably is that it was easy for me as I must of been so cosy with the communists. Well, I was not, and I still “enjoyed” a passport. You forgot from your reply the story of how did you climbed the wire fence. My facts were about the “open borders” by 1988, so we are on pins and needles to hear your gut wrenching story about climbing the barbed wires. Do not spare us, bring it on.
    Also, my story had no catharsis or big movie ending. I got my little passport, purchased and airplane ticket at IBUSZ (next to Bastya mozi) and got on the plane. No fences, no barbed wires. I live that tales to Kover and Varga and You b.v. So tell us the cathartic story.

  4. Mutt, was this a threat? You want my ass burnt? Well, well, you’ve come to the right place. Ms. Balogh blogesphere. She’ll hunt you down for uttering threats. Isn’t that right Ms. Balogh?

  5. Some1, Yes, I kinda guessed you didn’t live the books, they’re hard to digest. So is your story, however voluntarily presented with your brave putting a name to a face nick. Alright, reveal your identity for all to see and get my gut wrenching story. Easy deal.

  6. Louis Kovach :
    Some1:”It does not make me wonder although, as he supports the Hungarian government false accusations against Gyurcsany but have a problem with neo nazis attempt to not pay taxes”
    I have not written a single word supporting accusations against Gyurcsany, although I think I could based on similar hearsay as you guys are using.
    If Varga does not pay taxes the IRS will go after him, what is your proof of him not paying? My feeing about neo-nazis is the same as about “old” commies!

    OK, I hav no time to do a search on your Gyurcsany mania, and maybe you are right, maybe you did not support the accusations against Gyurcsany (I leave out your disruption with non-related items), so I just leave it that you are a person who generally supports neo-nazis and nazis, like Horthy, Nyiro, etc. Would this satisfy you?
    I have no proof about Varga not paying taxes. You nailed it on the head, it is the IRS job to figure out what to do with the cash payments. Let me quote you from Eva’s post as you as usal missed some important info “Tamás Bodoky, an investigative journalist, reported on the financial dealings of kuruc.info and discovered that the advertisers receive no receipts and that the fees must be paid either in U.S. dollars to the bank account of Béla Varga or delivered as cash in a sealed envelope and given to an employee of Turania, a small shop in District VI. So, as you may see, it is not me who accuses, or can support that accusations, but I do believe Bodoky. You choose to believe Horthy, I choose to believe Bodoky.

  7. b.v :
    Mutt, was this a threat? You want my ass burnt? Well, well, you’ve come to the right place. Ms. Balogh blogesphere. She’ll hunt you down for uttering threats. Isn’t that right Ms. Balogh?

    Varga, I know the English language is hard, but can you show me where did I personally threatened you?

  8. Muttyboy, that’s right. You simply implied. Good enough for me. “He’s a real man and he’ll burn his ass.”
    You wish, along with your “nazihunter” dummies. Ain’t gonna happen…sorry..

  9. b.v :
    Muttyboy, that’s right. You simply implied. Good enough for me. “He’s a real man and he’ll burn his ass.”
    You wish, along with your “nazihunter” dummies. Ain’t gonna happen…sorry..

    Varga,
    It was just a friendly advise. As you suggested to somebody to “get life insurance” I would suggest to you to sign up with an identity theft protection service. Also find a good tax attorney and I would consider a budget divorce lawyer too, but of course it depends on your personal situation. Thousands of car dealers or mortgage agents can pull a full credit on you and your wife. Then there are the tax report verification services, where they can get your 1040s 5 years back. Ouch, those audits are embarrassing especially when you have a small business! Make sure you monitor your credit cards for fraudulent charges. It usually starts with a 10 dollar charge on a bogus internet provider or a porn site. Oh, yes. Those are the good ones. They will re-sell your card number immediately. The the 4k plasma screens will show up. In your case it could be really funky when you get a Jewish FBI agent and you tell them why are these things happening to you. Or a black cop goes on the kuruc.info. Oh, brother. I just want to help you. Really.

  10. b.v :
    Some1, Yes, I kinda guessed you didn’t live the books, they’re hard to digest. So is your story, however voluntarily presented with your brave putting a name to a face nick. Alright, reveal your identity for all to see and get my gut wrenching story. Easy deal.

    What difference does it make if you know my name? I am not running for office or hold any office. I am not a person who you would read about in any papers (maybe in the local news). My name could be Tamas Somor. My name would make this story any more real? WHat part of the story blows your mind? You cannot imagine that people had a passport in Hungary? Even Rajk Jr. had a passport and so did Orban and he was this big communist fighter, did you forget? You must of done something amazing against the communists that you had t climb the barbwire fences (wherever they were), and if you can just tell as your story that would be great. No names, as I understand you are still afraid that the communists will hunt you down. Honestly, this is the last time I will bother you.

    Now for those who are interested further in the Hungarian border situation in 1988.
    THe quote below is from the writing of Dr Miklos Walko (he served as the North and South American manager for Ibusz, the Hungarian Travel Co at least in 1990 according to the Washington Post) The last 40 years tourism advancement in Hungary
    (The just of it is that in 1988 as the consequence of the Perestrojka, they introduced the “world passport” there was a more liberal way with border issues and so forth…)
    “A peresztrojka által indított enyhülés a kiutazó forgalom liberalizációját is eredményezte, így 1988-ban sor került a magyar „világútlevél” bevezetésére. A jobb valutaellátás és liberalizált vámszabályoknak és később a vízumkötelezettség fokozatos leépítésének köszönhetően ugrásszerűen megnőtt a külföldi utazások, köztük a bevásárló utak, a Gorenje és bunda-túrák száma.”

    Now interestingly, there were some further efforts to ease on the the few “restrictions” that still existed. These restrictions did not effect to many, but those to whom against there were under prosecution (as I have mentioned above, it did not effect Orban for example). One of the “Beszelo” (1988/3) (Talk) issue contained an article regarding the a group of young opposition leaders’ efforts to further the rights to those who the police would use the righ to travel as bargaining chip. THe group of “youngsters” actually were on hunger strike to bring attention to this issue. (No, Orban or Kover was not amongst them, but Demszky and Koszeg for example. Interesting! They were the ones who were fighting against the remains of communism, but I do not believe they had to climb any wire fences either.) THey also said “The new tvr passport that entered into force on January 1st 1988 – with the elimination of exit permits - brought in a quality of change that can be reported.”
    “http://beszelo.c3.hu/cikkek/allampolgari-kezdemenyezes-uj-torveny-kidolgozasara

  11. Mutt Damon, Your comment at 7:05PM on The hunters and the hunted: Kuruc.info’s list of anti-Hungarians. Let’s stick with it. I will stick with it too, as we do not want this blog to go down to the style of Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hirlap. Louis found a great new friend, so let them enjoy each other.

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