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.”
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.
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.