I never cease to be amazed at the kinds of people Viktor Orbán can pick for important positions. Among my “favorites” is Gyula Budai, the man entrusted with the investigation of politicians, officials, and ordinary citizens who might have committed fraud at the expense of the public purse.
Budai is one of those men around Fidesz who has rapidly advanced within the party and the government in the last few years. He is one of the many new Fidesz members of parliament who received very important positions in the second Orbán government despite limited administrative and political experience. However, as a lawyer he represented the Magyar Gazdakörök és Gazdaszövetkezetek Szövetsége (MAGOSZ) that was largely responsible for Fidesz’s popularity in the countryside. Moreover, he was one of the organizers of the 2005 farmer’s demonstration against the Gyurcsány government.
At first Budai was one of two commissioners entrusted with the investigation of fraud committed between 2002 and 2010, but after the resignation of Ferenc Papcsák, his co-commissioner, Budai took over all the investigations. Moreover, in January 2012, he was also named undersecretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Budai strikes me as a man of decidedly mediocre talents and questionable professional integrity. Shortly after his appointment it was discovered that seven years earlier he had been involved in a contract case that “necessitated” forging the signature of a long dead seller. A few months later it was found that, although Budai was furiously investigating allegedly fraudulent purchases of service apartments by military personnel, he himself bought such an apartment when he was a military prosecutor, a position he filled after finishing law school.
In addition to these problems Budai has been singularly unsuccessful at uncovering all those allegedly criminal activities he was entrusted with. The whole country was full of incredible stories of corruption. Even today practically all articles by foreign journalists on Hungary will have a sentence or two about the corruption of the socialist-liberal governments. The problem is that these alleged cases were mostly spurious or at least greatly exaggerated. Fidesz with the help of the prosecutor’s office began investigations and found willing witnesses with whose help they arrested a number of important MSZP politicians whom they kept in jail for years. The Fidesz plan worked splendidly. Some of these spectacular cases greatly helped Fidesz’s political goals. Just as in 1998 when the alleged attempts on the lives of Fidesz and Smallholders’ politicians worked in Fidesz’s favor. Put it this way, I have been suspicious of these alleged crimes for a number of years.
After a year and a half of investigation Budai’s results are meager. He investigated about 50 alleged cases of corruption and he turned to the police asking them to investigate at least 100 times, yet to date there is not a single case where the courts have decided in his favor. Very soon his mandate, which was supposed to last for two years, will be up. Two years and nothing to show for it. In fact, more than two years because the “collection” of cases started way before Budai began his work in November 2010. Among the most important cases he was handled were the Budapest Transit case (BKV), the abandoned project of a government quarters, the Israeli-American investment in a casino, hotel, and wellness club at Sukoró, the privatization of the Budapest Airport, and the purchase of a new building for Magyar Televízió (MTV). None of these cases went anywhere.
Budai targeted Ferenc Gyurcsány and desperately tried to make at least the Sukoró case stick in such a way that the former prime minister’s guilt could be established. This case is still dragging on. At one point he accused Gordon Bajnai and Gyurcsány of perjury. The two former prime ministers sued, but Budai due to his incredibly busy schedule didn’t show up at any of the appointed times to face the charges. He also tried to find corruption in the Ministry of Defense in connection with service apartments that could be purchased by the inhabitants at a low price. However, it turned out that the decision to allow the practice was born during the first Orbán government.
But perhaps Budai’s greatest failure was his investigation of the philosophers who allegedly received half a billion forints in the form of grants. These “rascals,” the charge went, didn’t perform any useful work in return. Some spent the money on useless trips or translations of ancient philosophers’ work that had already been translated into Hungarian. I wrote about this case that caused consternation all over the world for at least two reasons. One, among the accused was Ágnes Heller, who is very well known in international philosophical circles, and two, most of the accused philosophers were of Jewish origin. My first article appeared on January 30, 2011 and a few days later I wrote another in which I pointed out that Magyar Nemzet, which began the witch hunt, refused to abandon its mission of making criminals out of innocent philosophers who received perfectly legitimate grants for perfectly legitimate work.
Meanwhile one philosopher after the other sued Magyar Nemzet and one after the other won against the libelous newspaper. However, Budai went ahead with his case which he found so important that he specifically asked the Budapest prosecutor’s office to investigate the case instead of allowing the police to handle it. The prosecutors investigated and found the accusations entirely unfounded. They dropped the charges.
Interestingly enough, the case that initially received an incredible amount of publicity was dropped in total silence. There was a brief announcement from the Budapest Police, but otherwise not even the involved philosophers were informed that the charges against them had been dropped. Ágnes Heller pointed out that the witch hunt did terrible damage to the reputations of the philosophers and suggested that perhaps Budai should make a public apology for accusing innocent people. Budai naturally refused to apologize.
However unsuccessful Budai has been, his future career is assured since he was also named undersecretary in the Ministry of Agriculture. Keep in mind that he replaced József Ángyán, the man who is currently accusing the Orbán government of passing valuable state lands to friends of Fidesz politicians or supporters of the party. I’m sure that Budai will fulfill all the expectations of Viktor Orbán. There will be no further storm around the lease of state lands as long as Budai is in charge.