Looking through the almost 1,500 articles in Hungarian Spectrum I discovered one that mentioned some of Viktor Orbán’s schemes to enrich his father’s company. The title of the piece was “Who is guilty of a breach of fiduciary responsibility?” But the cases mentioned there were only a minute portion of the whole.
Here I’m relying mostly on József Debreczeni’s summary in his newly released book, Slough of Politics, which gives a succinct account of how Viktor Orbán used his political weight to enrich himself. A chapter is devoted to the topic with the title, “Executive power in the service of private property.”
Debreczeni published two books about Viktor Orbán earlier. The first one was written while Orbán was still prime minister but it appeared only after the elections in 2002. The second book appeared in 2009 with the whimsical title Arcmás. Why whimsical? Because the word that means “portrait” actually is a compound word: “kép” (picture) and “más” (other). And to make certain that everybody understands the pun there are three portraits of Orbán from three different periods. The last one is anything but flattering.
At the time Debreczeni wrote his first book on Viktor Orbán most of the corruption cases associated with the Orbán family were not known. There was only one case that had become public, which happened before Orbán attained high office. I mentioned in an earlier article that each party received former MSZMP properties. Fidesz received an especially valuable building which the party decided to sell immediately and to use some of the proceeds for other purposes. Unfortunately, some of this money ended up in the pocket of Viktor Orbán’s father who needed cash in order to purchase the stone quarry which he used to manage and of which he was party secretary during the Kádár regime. All that came to light in 1999 when Attila Ószabó and Éva Vajda wrote an article in Élet és Irodalom: “The boys in the mine: Business ventures of the Orbán family.” Fidesz sued on three different grounds. The party won in two cases while in the third instance its lawyers withdrew the charge. No one ever questioned the facts. The two cases were decided on technicalities. The whole story can be read in a book published by Élet és Irodalom in 2000.
In 2006 a book appeared written by Krisztina Ferenczi about another questionable affair connected to the Orbán couple entitled Vintage: In pursuit of the Orbán fortune. Why the harvesting of grapes? Because this time it was the acquisition of a vineyard in Tokaj that came under scrutiny. Another court case, another Fidesz victory because of the improper use of a word. The decision turned on whether a business meeting was officially a board meeting or not.
Debreczeni in his latest book only summarizes what he wrote before in Arcmás in much more detail. According to Debreczeni Viktor Orbán and/or his wife owned 5.5 hectares of land in 1998. Four years later they had 63 hectares. In 1998 they owned an apartment in downtown Pest worth 563,000 forints. Four years later they purchased a villa in the elegant Sváb-hegy district of Buda for 75 million forints and they immediately began extensive renovations and the enlargement of the building that included even a wine cellar. Keep in mind that the Hungarian prime minister’s salary is modest and that the Orbáns have five children.
When it comes to the extended family, Győző Orbán’s business also thrived during this period. In 1998 his Dolomit Kft. was worth 98 million; in 2002, 666 million forints. The older Orbán had another company called Gánt-Kő Kft. that also did very well indeed. Its profits grew from 16 million to 167 million forints. The question is whether Orbán used his position to enrich himself and his family. Here Debreczeni brings up the example of the Tokaj vineyards which is well documented.
Luckily for Orbán his illicit transaction came to light years after the actual events. As Debreczeni writes, it was post festa. Élet és Irodalom had full documentation of a board meeting of a group of people, including the prime minister, that revealed how Viktor Orbán and his friends conspired to receive government properties free of charge and government assistance gratis for their newly acquired vineyards in Tokaj. Here are some facts. Attila Szász, a lawyer friend of Anikó Lévai, wife of Viktor Orbán, as a member of the group received 50 million forints in just one year from the government for the improvement of their vineyard. The mayor of Sárazsadány, where the vineyard was located, sold land belonging to the town for two (2!) Fts per m2 to Viktor Orbán’s wife. That’s called a bargain!!! Then they used the 50 million government grant for the planting of vines. During the period between 1998 and 2002 several millions in government assistance went to that particular village in the Tokaj region, including a new road that led to the Orbán vineyard.
One might also mention here that among the businessmen involved in the vineyard affair was Dezső Kékessy, a 56-er from Switzerland, whose son-in-law purchased the Pest apartment of the Orbáns for 65 million forints! Keep in mind that only a couple of years before the apartment was worth 563,000 forints. I clearly recall that Kékessy’s son-in-law was stuck with the apartment for months on end and eventually had to sell it at a loss. However, Kékessy got what he wanted. He became Hungarian ambassador to France!
During one of the “board meetings” the topic was a government grant vineyard owners could apply for. In the transcript that Élet és Irodalom received from Attila Szász’s estranged wife one could read Orbán’s warning to the other board members that they have to be careful: “We mustn’t ask for so much that we would be the ones who win the largest amount.” Indeed, that is exactly what happened. Five hundred and seventy people received government grants. Only two of these received more than forty million forints. Royal Tokaji Borászati Kft. received 44,636,000 forints and behold, the second largest amount went to the company in which the Orbáns were involved. The amount was 44,475,000 forints! But that wasn’t all. The company received government grants twice more to the tune of 64.5 million forints.
The dirty business in Tokaj didn’t end here. I will continue the story tomorrow.