The Orbán family’s enrichment with a little government help

Today I read an editorial in Magyar Nemzet on the fate of Silvio Berlusconi.  It seems that Anna Szabó, the author, who is a great admirer of Viktor Orbán, forgot that the Hungarian prime minister is a friend of Berlusconi. Because she found Berlusconi’s sentence far too lenient and expressed her utter astonishment that the Italians, although they have long known about Berlusconi’s “dirty affairs,” only now were ready to punish him for his sins.

In the final paragraph of the editorial Szabó bemoans the fact that in Hungary many corruption cases have gone unpunished, pointing the finger at Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. She lists among their sins the fate of the Posta Bank, MSZMP’s former retreat in Balatonőszöd, the Budapest Airport, and “stealing parts of Lake Velence’s shores.” In case you draw a blank, it was at Lake Velence that the Israeli businessman Joav Blum and his American partners who included  Ronald S. Lauder hoped to build a luxury hotel and a casino.

If I were Anna Szabó I wouldn’t mention these cases right now because practically all the accusations she hurls at the former prime ministers are without foundation. On the other hand, in recent days Hungarian newspapers have been full of descriptions of certain business activities of members of the Orbán family that are suspect.

I am not an overly suspicious person. In fact, I can even be called naive when it comes to questionable business deals. On the one hand, I’m inept in business matters and, on the other, since I’m not in the habit of cheating or stealing from others I find it very difficult to imagine people whose daily activities include such shady activities.

I have encountered people over the last twenty years who have floated fanciful stories about Fidesz and the “boys.” I know a woman who to this day is convinced that a group of MSZMP leaders allowed the formation of Bibó College, the dormitory where Fidesz was born, in order to develop “trustworthy cadres” who would eventually be entrusted with salvaging the Kádár regime’s essential features. Well, I think this is madness.

On the other hand, I take much more seriously the persistent allegations that seem to be well founded about the money Fidesz got from the sale of the building the party received from the Hungarian state in 1992. Here only one thing is not entirely clear. How much of the 750,000 million (in 1992!!!) remained in the party coffers and how much disappeared into private pockets. We know only that László Kövér didn’t allow top party officials to take notes while Viktor Orbán tried to explain the distribution of the money among various Fidesz companies. But Klára Ungár, who was by that time highly suspicious of the activities of Lajos Simicska, László Kövér, and Viktor Orbán, tried to keep the figures in her head. She found that at least 170 million was missing from the total. We also don’t know what happened to the rest of the money that was invested in several companies that were eventually liquidated under very suspicious circumstances.

It is also another fairly well established fact that some of the money went to help Viktor Orbán’s father, Győző, purchase the state quarry he ran before the change of regime. It was this quarry in the village of Gánt that established the Orbán family’s fortune. Since then Győző Orbán has been able to add various enterprises to his original business and has become very rich indeed. According to Krisztina Ferenczi’s calculation, two of the businesses in which the older Orbán has a majority share (the quarry in Gánt and a company that produces peat) netted 2,192 billion forints last year. In addition to these two companies, there is another one that is owned exclusively by Viktor Orbán’s father and his two young brothers. That company was also profitable, bringing in an additional 400 million.

The Orbán Quarry in Gánt

The Orbán Quarry in Gánt

Győző Orbán also owns land in Felcsút adjacent to a parcel of land owned by Viktor Orbán. The VIP parking area of the Aranycsapat Stadium will be located on this piece of land. (Aranycsapat means Golden Team, the nickname of the Hungarian team that became world famous in the mid-1950s and on which Ferenc Puskás played before he left Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian revolution.)

The prime minister’s father also purchased part of the former estate of Archduke József of Habsburg. The summer palace of the Hungarian Habsburg family was destroyed during the war and the 7,000 acres that went with it was distributed among the local landless peasants. Only the manor house and 13 hectares were retained by the Hungarian state. Perhaps we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that both the manor house and the 13 acres ended up in Győző Orbán’s hands. As far as I know, the manor house is under renovation. Rumor has it that it is being converted into a luxury hotel.

And then there is the Orbán family’s controversial peat business. The first mention I found of the marshlands that are necessary for peat production was in the March 5 issue of HVG. Bernadette Szél (LMP) discovered that Fidesz was preparing a bill that would lift the protection of marshlands and allow the mining of peat.  By July it became public knowledge that the prime minister’s father and two brothers already owned about 200 acres of marshland in the County of Zala. Győző Orbán purchased the land in 1999 during the premiership of his son. The head of the Mining Authority was for a while a silent partner in this peat business. They and others purchased the land for practically nothing. In 2003 the area was declared to be protected, destined to be converted into a national park. All of the landowners were forced to sell their land to the state, with the exception of the Orbáns.

Bernadette Szél went to look at this land, which consists of several thousands of contiguous hectares of marshland. The Orbáns’ 200 acres that presumably were so different from all the others lie in the middle of this large area. It seems that the Orbán company will have a peat mining monopoly in these parts. At the moment the company, in addition to mining, is building a helicopter pad. Business is good. In 2012 there was half a billion forint profit.

And, as people say, “if we just knew the whole truth.” I think we would be astonished at the depth of corruption of the man who is currently the prime minister of Hungary.


  1. Just the other day Zoltán Szabó talked about this final report that in his opinion revealed quite a bit. The universal opinion that the investigative committee didn’t manage to achieve anything. However, Szabó claimed that the media didn’t accurately report on the findings of the committee.

  2. I think the Horthy era was more decent than the current regime’s rule.
    Nobody was allowed to wreck the country on this scale under Horthy.

  3. Liberty 2013 :
    I think the Horthy era was more decent than the current regime’s rule.
    Nobody was allowed to wreck the country on this scale under Horthy.

    What about WW2? That wrecked the country a little bit, n’est-ce pas?

    The good thing is that Orban does not have an army. But watch out, he said he wants a “strong” army.

  4. “in recent days Hungarian newspapers have been full of descriptions of certain business activities of members of the Orbán family that are suspect.”

    Éva – when you say “Hungarian newspapers”, do you mean just the left/liberal ones, or is this something that’s being picked up on across the political spectrum?

    From my peculiar perspective, trapped in Fidesz World, as I am, I would love to see some really hard evidence about what Orbán’s been up to. If I raise this issue with my family, I am basically arguing a point of view I can’t support with any facts (and you can imagine how successful that is).

    Interestingly, when this has come up, there are three basic replies from Orbán supporters: they either simply deny it’s happening, or they claim that MSzP were/are just as bad – or they justify it! This last fascinates me, and I think it tells us something important about the Hungarian political situation. Orbán supporters (and I suspect many others) accept that people in power will get rich and don’t really stop to think about how (or care about it), some even see it is a ‘reward’ for the ‘good’ Orbán is doing, and accept is a perfectly natural and to be expected.

  5. Paul, I guess I wasn’t quite accurate when I was talking about Hungarian media in general. Naturally, Magyar Nemzet, MTV, MR, Magyar Hírlap don’t mention these suspicious cases of obvious corruption for the enrichment of the Orbán family. But, I’m sure, did. I don’t read the Hungarian-German paper but given the political sympathies of its editor-in-chief I doubt that one can read anything about these stories there.

    I’m really sorry that Chrome’s translation does such a bad job on Hungarian. I just mentioned how good the English translation of Finnish. So, it is not the language which is at fault but those who were responsible for the program. I.e. those who Hungarian who worked on the translation program.

  6. Paul: “Interestingly, when this has come up, there are three basic replies from Orbán supporters: they either simply deny it’s happening, or they claim that MSzP were/are just as bad – or they justify it! This last fascinates me, and I think it tells us something important about the Hungarian political situation.”

    Exactly. We can go on and off about how the right wing media is not giving coverage, but the sad fact is that people do know about the tobaco shops, the Orbán quarry, the stadium building, etc. They just ignore or justify it because Orbán is their hero. This country is at a mental civil war and war logic overrules everything else.

    I used to use this analogy with Gyurcsány back then but it is even more accurate about Orbán and his supporters. Tomorrow, he can come up with the idea that Hungary must follow the ancient Aztec gods and start sacrificing newborns ritually at Deák square. I’m absolutely positive, there would be a great number of people supporting him on this, arguing how important this is for the nation, yelling that the socialist would sacrifice twice as many infants, maybe even try to convince you that it is perfectly align with European values.

  7. Please, pay attention, that Eva mentioned only cases, what the publicly available informations indicate, not the rumours or hear-says – one of the virtues distinguishing her – but I don’t have such handicap, you see.

    So, I dare to mention once again the infamous Gripen affair, and the sizeable (8 millions of USD) kickback which has been funnelled through – after various twists and turns – of the Swiss registered Valurex International SA, by E. Kiss-Borlase. (E. as Egon, Eugen, his son was only a partner then). If you guessed, that they have a somehow familiar name, you’re right.
    At those times Hungary had an ambassador right there, with hmm… special use of the Hungarian grammar, still with a PHD. Strange coincidence, nothing else, of course.
    I guess, a few years ago came to light a Swiss registered company, called Basis Invest GmbH – one of many, as it turned out – belongs to guess who? The Simicska-Nyerges twins, with well documented ties and affection not only toward their own welfare, but the above mentioned family too, oh well…

    But, above all, we all know, “that wasn’t a board meeting” so everything is perfectly alright, no reason to be upset..!

    If I was responsible for communication on the civilized side, I certainly would publish lists with the public data regarding the family-tree and it’s financial branches, just to make the people aware, who they really are with that brazen arrogance blaming everyone else as lying and stealing communists, who disagree with the omnipotent leader.
    But I am not, so, here we are.

  8. Three life without parole sentences in the Roma murders case!

    I honestly thought they’d duck this one and give them lesser sentences – so well done Hungary!

  9. Six state-owned enterprises were willing to answer the question about the bonuses they paid to employees in the last three years. It is safe to guess that the bulk of the money went to political appointees.

    These loss generating firms (like State Railways and Postal Service) paid out a total of six billion forints in bonuses.

    Remark: Orban denounced these payments while in opposition.

  10. Several state-owned companies, like the holding for public television and other public media did not answer the question.

    The Development Bank answered only that the name of their chairman is spelled not Baranyai but Baranyay (which might imply that he thinks he is the offspring of a noble feudal family).

    The Orban apparatchiks are an arrogant gang – they count on the Chief Prosecutor who would never indict them. By the the time his extended tenure is over, the statute of limitation
    will make the Orban nomenclatura immune.

  11. Don’t forget that Nyerges is from Szolnok, which is another, often neglected, but very important power base for Fidesz — that is where Orban’s wife is from. People tend to focus on Felcsút only (where Orban himself is from).

    Aniko Levai’s family still lives there and, surprise surprise, lately became a major agricultural investor in the region (at least now they are open about it).

    That said, Zsolt Nyerges (imporatntly, a lawyer himself like Simicska or Orban/Levai) and his Szolnok-based cronies, for he has a huge posse of helpers (now placed at various positions of power all over state owned companies and now in private companies), are trusted because of their original connection to Ms. Orban.

    It’s not like people like Nyerges just emerge from nowhere and suddenly became entrusted with the biggest deals in Hungary (such as MVM, railroads, media and the like). They are all connected to the Family.

    And if you accept that they cannot just emerge from nowhere to amass the biggest wealth in Hungary, than you would have to be hopelessly naive to think that they can keep the spoils for themselves (even after deducting for party financing).

    By the way, before Nyerges, Attila Várhegyi was their point man, the former mayor of Szolnok, who was sentenced to suspended prison (actually under Orban’s first government, but at the time Fidesz did not own the judiciary) and then he disappeared from the public view, of course he is still an active and trusted consigliere for the family, only less openly so.

  12. Amazing self-righteousness on the part of HS. Corruption is bad, undermines democracy. Read the new book on corruption in the US government. The Great Republic is compared to the decline of the Roman Empire. I always thought Eva should stay home: she has her work cut out for her.

  13. Simple Simon is trying to divert again – you really should lay off this kindergarden logic.

    If you have problems with corruption in the USA (do you live there ?) go to a US site and act!


    I’ve found a new expression for this kindergarden tactic of diverting: The other guy did something similar – so why am I being punished ?

    I call it now: Trying a leto on something/someone, named after the Fidesz loonie who does this all the time on …

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