Hungary’s Anti-Terrorist Unit hard at work: Seizing theater props

One of the very first decisions Viktor Orbán made as prime minister was the establishment of an Anti-Terrorist Center (Terrorelhárítási Központ or TEK). Not that Hungary needed an anti-terrorist unit. After all, the Hungarian police had such a thing already. The suspicion immediately arose that this new commando unit’s basic function was to be a kind of private army for the protection of Viktor Orbán. Such a suspicion was not entirely baseless because the unit’s leadership came entirely from people who had served as Viktor Orbán’s bodyguard while in opposition.

The chief body guard, János Hajdú, used to work for the National Security Office, but after 2002 he left the organization and joined Orbán in “exile.” For eight years Hajdú accompanied Orbán everywhere he went. He sat next to the driver’s seat while important and highly secret conversations were taking place in the back. Hajdú could be trusted implicitly. The man knew how to keep a secret and how to unearth secrets. He developed a veritable information gathering organization for the party and for Viktor Orbán.

Normally it is the Köztársasági Őrezred (Republican Guard Regiment) that is responsible for protecting the country’s high dignitaries–the prime minister, the president, the speaker of the house, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But if this practice had continued, not only would the trusted bodyguard have been without a job but also the members of an elaborate and large commando unit whose sole job was the protection of Viktor Orbán. There are signs that Orbán has over the years become quite paranoid–sometimes with good reason. For example, on the fateful afternoon of October 23, 2006, when he obviously had an inkling that the peaceful demonstration might turn violent, he had an armored car standing by in which to leave the scene in a great hurry.

In any case, an anti-terrorist unit was set up headed by Hajdú, who was named brigadier general. The unit received ten billion forints at a time when the police’s financial troubles were only too well known. There are stories that they didn’t have enough money for gasoline. On the other hand, not long ago TEK purchased some very expensive Mercedes SUVs.

Considering its cost and the fanfare at its creation, in the last year and a half little has been heard of TEK. But two days ago MTI issued a newsflash: “Members of the Terrorelhárítási Központ early Monday morning seized almost 100 firearms with live ammunition in Vecsés at one of the custom-free warehouses.” The news came straight from János Hajdú, who added that the military weapons had come from London by air and had arrived at the Ferenc Liszt International Airport on Saturday.

 

An hour later MTI gave more details based on János Hajdú’s press conference. Among the seized weapons were machine guns, handguns, pistols, and sniper rifles with telescopes. As soon as the boxes containing the weapons had been unloaded, the plane carrying them turned around and left the airport. The next day, on Sunday, a shipping company moved the boxes to Vecsés from where the members of TEK “as a result of secret information gathering” seized the shipment early Monday morning.

By the time of this press conference, at least one reporter must have known something because he asked Hajdú whether the weapons seized were not in fact props to be used in Brad Pitt’s film “World War Z” being filmed in Hungary. By that time, it seems to me, Hajdú must have realized that his great discovery might end up being the butt of jokes because “he refused either to deny or to confirm” the possibility that the guns might not belong to a terrorist group. The only thing he said was that even if the weapons had something to do with Brad Pitt’s film, “he wouldn’t have allowed the importation of any weapons capable of firing only two weeks before the celebration of the anniversary of October 23.” As it turned out, Hajdú doesn’t even have the authority to give such orders. And gun experts ascertained that the weapons had been altered so that no live ammunition could be fired from them. They can shoot only blanks.

 

Moreover, it turned out that the film company had the necessary permits to import these props to Hungary. There was a detailed list of the contents. But this didn’t seem to impress Hajdú and his men. They questioned Béla Gajdos, a weapons supervisor for “World War Z,” and for good measure they searched his house and confiscated the permits received from the proper Hungarian authorities.

Hajdú is clearly embarrassed. He managed to make Hungary the laughing stock of the international media. In English alone I found over 600 articles on the subject. According to The New York Times “if Hungary ever finds itself the target of an undead invasion, its police force should now be well supplied to defend the nation.”

36 comments

  1. THis is exactly what happens when you put incompetent people to jobs that requires some fines. This situation is the perfect illustration for what is happening in Hungary. Our education system, our laws, our democracy is in ruin because of highly unqualified people cough up ideas in order to prove that they are fitted for the job.
    On the other hand, it takes new meaning Hungary’s Prime Minister, Orban’s comment regarding the WikiLeaks document that claims that he told various audiences “not to listen what I say” while running to be elected:
    the prime minister is not interested in the continuing soap opera of the American entertainment world” .

  2. Ron: “According to the video, some weapons could be re-converted to use live ammunition by removing a single screw.”
    Maybe. I think that they goofed. The didn’t have a clue that these weapons were sent for a movie set. Now, they have to find some kind of explanation.

  3. It seems to me that this whole thing is staged as a good marketing ploy for this movie or for shooting movies in Hungary in general.

  4. In a sting operation on the movie extras they also arrested scores of zombies for carrying expired identifications (they were dead).

  5. Ron: “It seems to me that this whole thing is staged as a good marketing ploy”
    I read all the MTI reports and I didn’t get this impression. I think this Hajdú guy was dead serious.

  6. Eva: I read all the MTI reports and I didn’t get this impression. I think this Hajdú guy was dead serious.
    I am not certain, they are sometimes pretty good actors, but this story is covered worldwide. The marketing cost for such a movie is very high, sometimes higher than the entire production costs. I think they got lots of free publicity.

  7. I would like to explain what happened to Amazon. Amazon had a fight over sales tax with the State of Connecticut. Amazon lost. As an answer they stopped this particular service to people who write from Connecticut.
    I think I received $10 from Amazon when our “parnership” ended. So it wasn’t exactly a huge loss. As for Gretchen’s offer, it is very thoughtful and very kind but not really necessary. After all, I enjoy writing this blog.

  8. Ron: “they are sometimes pretty good actors, but this story is covered worldwide.”
    But Ron, don’t you think that they look ridiculous?

  9. Eva: But Ron, don’t you think that they look ridiculous?
    Absolutely. But it seems that the police/anti-terrorist unit spin it the other way, and as it seems that all documentation is confiscated there is no proof of the legality of this transport. But reading the story in foreign newspapers the story is spinned as follows:
    According to Hungarian authorities, the guns — which were to be used as props in Brad’s new zombie flick “World War Z” — hadn’t been properly disabled, and some even contained live rounds.
    http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/story/2011-10-11/brad-pitt-gun-raid/50728836/1
    http://www.tmz.com/2011/10/10/brad-pitt-world-war-z-gun-raid-hungary-police-ak-47-sniper-rifle/#.TpYFiJv23Zk
    http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/11/weapons-meant-for-brad-pitt-film-seized-in-hungary.html

  10. @Ron: The Hungarian’s government’s version is that they were live… I think they are trying to save face. According to the the movie crew, they were modified so that they can only be used with blanks and the permits from the police were obtained.
    Obviously, there was no communication between the regular police and the special counter-terrorism forces, otherwise this gaffe wouldn’t have happened.
    In the press you can find both versions, depending on who the paper base its information on (government or movie crew).

  11. According to the New York Times: ” Mr. Hajdu said: “It’s possible that all the weapons were brought in for the film, but this would not be allowed by Hungarian law. This is a very complicated case.”
    bahahaha What is exactly complicated to Mr Hajdu in this? If this is complicated, I am not sure waht would be a better fitted assignment to Mr. Hajdu in a country that aims to attract foreign productions.

  12. I remember when Chirac personally met the crew of the Da Vinci Code and helped them to get access to the Louvre for a few shots for the film. It seems PR isn’t really our thing. Imagine Orban the 5th with Brad Pitt. Omg, my knees are shaking.

  13. “and some even contained live rounds”
    Hmmm. No one, especially arms smugglers, transports guns with live rounds in them.

  14. @Paul: I was just thinking the same thought. Nobody ever is so stupid to transport weapons with live rounds in them. That is a very lame excuse.
    I find it outrageous what Hajdú implies here, when saying that weapons should not be imported prior the 23rd of October. What does he expect? A violent uprise? Those people capable of such moves are already in government.

  15. A personal letter /trust me relevant/ made public:
    Dear /white out here/,
    So here is what I am thinking. All right, let’s start with democracy. Say let’s change the Law. Let’s add: “A candidate of any party may not run unless a / say fifteen/ point document is submitted from her/his part. This document may not consist of generalities but rather of a thorough analysis of fifteen issues the candidate considers important and relevant to candidacy. It should include a very detailed description of what the candidate /if elected/ is promising to do about those issues and exactly how/ to what extent. This document remains public knowledge.”
    So again, let’s say we change the Law /we monkeys do that all the time/. I am thinking of introducing the “dead man switch” here. Hey, it worked for the railway system! Say we add: “Should an elected representative ever act in violation of her/ his particular fifteen point platform that person shall automatically ceases to be a representative and shall be immediately unseated. An independent federal/ state agency shall be created to enforce this provision. Such occurrence/ if ever/ is irrespective to election cycles. Such an agency’s action/ activity are to be readily transparent both to a constitutional court and the body of representatives as well as public knowledge. ”
    See, it’s not such a bad idea. On one hand it leaves an enormous leeway for the representatives to deal and wheel as long as they don’t touch their particular / says fifteen/ core issues. On the other hand….there is swift midterm accountability. In practice this is simple: say you won on an antiwar platform and then /once in power/ you changed your mind. Say Nixon just to be kind to Obama. Well, you should be out, no?
    I am aware of the fact that a very dangerous new entity was just created. They can escort out /NOT arrest/ a representative any time and of any position. However may I remind you that we are surrounded by very dangerous entities every day? A nation’s military force could obliterate its capital within 48 hours. A nation’s police force could arrest every citizen within 48 hour. So why don’t they do it? For one: any of these frightful entities are under triple/ quadruple control. That doesn’t really answer it. The bottom line is that these institutions consist of fellow monkeys. Things can go very wrong /say Hitler’s Reich or Stalin’s Union, Pinchot’s Chile/. They rarely do though. As you might know, I served my time as an artillery officer. We are talking about very intelligent and highly self disciplined people with long years of training/ personal pride. At least three alternatives are always there: resign, blow your brains out or shoot your superior officer. An average monkey in uniform usually chooses any one of these three options before going down that road for which there is no excuse. So I just added another agency; it is not really different from the rest.
    So what happens to an unseated representative? Say: “an unseated representative has the right to appeal to the supreme court to have her/his mandate revalidated. If the appeal in question is denied a new general election is to be held in the representative’s district and her/his seat shall remain empty till such election took place. The /say partial here/ cost of this election is to be paid by the party that fielded the representative. If the suspended representative’s position is such that it cannot remain empty for reasons of national interest than her/his “next in the line” shall be mandated to act in absence.”
    The last sentence is the rare exception such as president/vice/speaker of the house. There is no reason why an ordinary seat wouldn’t stay empty.
    Now I think this would put the dagger and the interest of the people back to democracy. Am I dreamer? Of course.
    My second thought is about coalitions. It is about that we really need many more parties that actually express what their constituency wants them to stand for. If so, none of those parties have the realistic chance to gain a simple majority at any given election. We need to learn how to live with a situation like that. No more “winner takes it all”. It’s an idea about PRE /NOT post/ election coalition platforms; it sort of ties in with my first diatribe.
    My third thought is about transparency. “Corporate free speech”, hey things are not looking good.
    Anyways, am sending this. Talk soon. Life is crazy. Barb’s mom is her eighties. Her second husband, Alex Bodo just passed away. He was an unabashed republican but a very gentle and loving person of Hungarian heritage. He served in the Pacific. I had the privilege to know him. I am a bit tired.
    Sincerely:
    Peter

  16. As much as I am tempted to dwell on the humor of the incompetence on display here, a security unit designed around personal loyalty to a single politician is highly problematic. First, simply because this performance reflects badly on the country and particularly towards a couple of niches — foreign film-making in Hungary and the indirect goodwill resulting from those films, for example tourism resulting from the positive image of Hungary in those films — in which the country has been doing well for itself. But secondly, and more critically, what is the constitutional nature of this unit? What legislation created it? What powers of investigation, force, arrest, does it possess? To whom does it answer and with whom may it cooperate? What are the divisions of interests and powers with existing anti-terror units? What tenure do members of this force have? Are they civil servants with life tenure (thus potential serving — with their personal loyalties to OV — into the terms of office of prime ministers other than OV? What does it cost, and what funds were moved to cover this?
    For the Johnny Boys or Joseph Simons out there who think that I’m am biased in this, please do a simple thought experiment and consider what your own reaction might have been had one of the MSzP Prime Ministers created such a force out of his own campaign security.

  17. The seizure of the fire arms and the certificates issued by the Hungarian Police pertaining to them by the ‘Anti Terrorist outfit’ shows a degree of lunacy which is almost beyond belief. Or is it?
    Firstly these so called weapons (if it cannot fire a ball/shot cartridge it is not a weapon) were imported from the U.K.
    The U.K. has some of the most stringent gun laws in Europe. In that context we must look at U.K. law. In their ability to fire most of the consignment unless deactivated would be illegal in the U.K. It is illegal for a private citizen to hold a pistol of any type unless it is deactivated or is licensed issued by what used to be the Home Secretary. All self loading ‘long arms’ which can give automatic fire are prohibited (unless deactivated)
    If imported under licence as fully activated weapons they must be sent to a licensed ‘deactivator’ who after deactivation would send the weapons to a licence ‘Proof House’ who will issue the relevant Deactivation Certificate.
    U.K. law however recognises that there is a need for such prohibited items to be used as ‘theatrical properties’ and in such case are allowed to be imported stored and used under stringent (Home Office) control. It is recognised that such theatrical props have to be allowed to fire ‘Blanks rounds’ of sufficient charge as to make the recoil realistically and also to fire in automatic mode.
    Hajdú’s men will find that the grenades and seemingly ‘live rounds’ are stage props and have clay fillings to make the weight right. The clips on the grenades will release realistically and they may be able to be fitted with small smoke candles for realistic effects. There is a scene where the men of the Terrorelhárítási Központ fire both a pistol and an AK74. It is at http://www.pestiside.hu/20111011/your-complete-guide-to-the-brad-pitt-budapest-zombie-illegal-weapon-seizure-story/
    Both weapons show their age and wear as they exhibit considerable ‘breech leakage (Blow back). You do not buy new weapons for deactivation as ‘Stage Props’, you are after knackered stuff. It cost less!
    The fearless leader of Terrorelhárítási Központ and the chief body guard of the ‘Mighty One (OV), one János Hajdú is worried that (Just as Fidesz tried to do in 2006 riots) someone would start another revolution on the anniversary of the uprising in 1956. He got wind of the import of the theatrical props and saw his chance to start a witch hunt for an imagined plot against the government.
    Like one of his predecessors in the AVO he is convinced that there are at least 100,000 terrorists and conspirators at large in Hungary. I suspect that he thinks that these conspirators etc are lead and paid by the ‘Wall Street Journal’, The EU etc.
    I have no doubt that the Terrorelhárítási Központ planning a method where-by hey can shut down all the mobile phones, CB and licensed armature radios as well as the internet in Hungary at the touch of a button. The man János Hajdú is now the defender of the Fidesz revolution and we all know what those folk are like.

  18. Mutt: ‘I love the facemask. Make sure people don’t know your are stupid.”
    I laughed so hard that I was in tears. Actually, I’m still laughing.

  19. GW: “what is the constitutional nature of this unit? What legislation created it? What powers of investigation, force, arrest, does it possess?”
    Very good questions. I looked in Magyar Közlöny and found very little. Only that Sándor Pintér, interior minister, named Hajdú to be “főigazgató.”
    http://www.magyarkozlony.hu/
    A few months ago there was a good opinion piece about TEK by Jenő Veres (Népszava), a journalist I like. http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=442377 Funny and perceptive guy. I must say that I didn’t pay much attention to the issue but I will look around and let you know if I find something interesting.

  20. THis is very encouraging to any foreign production to film in Hungary. If these “weapons” are in storage now, I assume the whole production is backed up until they can buy enough guns from the local “cellovolde” (shooting gallery at local fairs). Oh, wait the Terror Unit is invading the shoot the duck station, and seizing the “weapons” from unsuspecting teens, who had no idea that is illegal to use a BB gun in Hungary.

  21. So, either we have an ‘anti’-terrorist’ unit that is so stupid they didn’t realise these were props, or an ‘anti-terrorist’ unit so paranoid that they assumed these props were really to be used in an uprising.
    But it doesn’t really matter which is the truth, what matters is that either way they were motivated by real concern that there might be an armed uprising against OV.
    Why on earth would they think that? To date, the ‘opposition’ has been so ineffective that they haven’t even managed to complete a full weekend of demonstrations. The best they have managed is to organise yet another talking shop – and even then they couldn’t come up with an original name.
    With the single exception of 56 (which really was an exception), there is no history of armed insurrection or uprising in Hungary – none at all. Not a single policeman shot dead, not a single bomb – nothing. The closest the country has come to anything like this was ironically from the right, when the Jobbik/Fidesz thugs were let lose in 2006.
    So why all this fear and paranoia? OV has total power, his diktatorship is established in all but name, there is nothing to stop him putting the final pieces in place, and the opposition couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.
    Is this just an insight into the paranoia and insecurity of OV, as he sits in his tower, gloating over his kingdom – and constantly looking over his shoulder?
    Or is it Fidesz back to their old ways of black propaganda – setting the scene, winding up the tension, raising the expectations – for ‘something’ on the 23rd? ‘Something’ so potentially nasty that it will justify any pre-emptive action they take on and before the weekend?
    To those demonstrating in 10 days time – keep your eyes peeled and make sure you’re wearing trainers.

  22. The Terrorelhárítási Központ was formed without legal status and is therefore beyond the law. It is subject only to the whim of the Might One (O.V.). From what I understand from the proposed bills all other services within (and outside) Hungary will be subservient to it.
    They will be able to act outside Hungary and in the interest of Hungary (or rather in what O.V. perceives is the interest of Hungary or rather himself).
    They are to become a super AVO.

  23. “they were motivated by real concern that there might be an armed uprising against OV.”
    I was also very amused by this story and I am inclined to believe that these men desperately wanted to manifest their loyalty to OV. How bad that they could only testify to their stupidity. And it would not improve the image of an anti-terror police if it turned out that the film company actually negotiated that as an advertisement, in such a case also the anti-terror police looks amateurish as they seem to need extra-income.

  24. Hi All,
    some information on this case has come to my ears, which makes sense to share.
    Apparently, the production company behind this Pitt movie, Mid Atlantic, has not managed to line itself up in the FIDESZ universe (i.e. unwillingness to pay kick-backs to Mr Orban’s people). With a turn-over of ca 10B HUF/year, Mid Atlantic is playing a dangerous game. Seizing the weapons is likely a warning shot.
    While my info is hearsay, it comes from people in the Hungarian movie industry – so it might be true. For sure it sounds plausible.

  25. Kirsten I doubt that, The film props confiscated by the TEK praetorian guard were not owned by the film company. They were owned by a ‘stage properties company’ in the U.K. These will hold all the necessary ‘tickets’ to have stage props and are responsible for their leasing to film/stage companies. Before they could be exported the property company had to get all the lets and hindrances form both the U.K. Home Office and their Hungarian counterparts (via the Hungarian Embassy in London). The air freight company would be ‘bonded’ to carry them and deposit them into a secure warehouse in this case a Hungarian Customs warehouse until they could be moved to a secure warehouse for use.
    I know that TEK man removed the Safety screws from the muzzles and fired the weapons but we did not see what ‘round’ was chambered. I could write more about this but enough for now.
    Dani indeed it seems true. Both Mid Atlantic and the Hungarian government are in trouble over this one. Mid Atlantic is I think a US registered company. If it is U.S. registered and pays ‘kickbacks’ to the Grandees if Fidesz it will be in trouble with the U.S. laws on bribery. The International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998 is Both Mid Atlantic and the Hungarian government’s worry.
    If it is shown that the’ Grandees of Fidesz’, or others, are behind the problem then they will be in trouble with the U.S. Government (see http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa/).
    However the goods seized I think are only hired by Mid Atlantic from a U.K. company. If after a review of the documentation there will be yet another case pending against the Hungarian Government under the UK Bribery Act (2010) –see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13983256 – in the U.K. From there it will go to the European Court. (pick the bones out of that one Johnny Boy –if you can!)

  26. I think that there are a number of studios in other countries in the vicinity that will gladly take over the business. This must be meant to threaten the own people, Hungarians, in the film business, the others need not and will not come again. Certainly this is destroying employment instead of creating it.

  27. I think the real problem here is the precedent given now. THere are plenty of productions that shoot in Hungary w/o any problem. THere are many film people oversees with Hungarian background who lobbied very hard to have foreign films shoot in Hungary. William F Whites invested in equipments, Vilmos Zsigmond, Lantos, Vajna just to name few worked hard on this, so a little sh*t can blow it away. It is very sad.

  28. I suspect TEK just cocked it up (after all, Fidesz’s record since the election has hardly been cock-up-free) and really did think this was a weapons shipment for an uprising (although who exactly they thought was going to rise up, is beyond me – Jobbik, maybe?).
    But Odin’s makes a good point re what these ‘weapons’ were loaded with when demonstrated. If you watch the video, you see them fire, but you don’t see anything actually hit. I’m sure if that had been live rounds they would have shown you the bullet holes. Chances are they were just firing blanks.
    And, as a UK citizen who has lived through the various gun control problems and new laws we have had over the last 40 years or so, I am very suspicious of this apparent ‘reactivation by simply withdrawing a screw’.
    The UK gun laws must be some of the toughest in the world. Even replica guns, completely incapable of being fired are treated with deepest suspicion. I just can’t believe that a UK company would be allowed to own or transport weapons that could be ‘reactivated’, especially so easily.
    We are being conned by TEK here. A desperate bit of arse covering to try to salvage some face.

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