This is a very old story with a new twist. It goes back to what is known as the Hungarian “mafia war,” which began with the murder of József Prisztás in 1996 and continued a few days later with the death of Csaba Lakatos, the driver of Prisztás’s race horses, on the Budapest trotting course. It was in connection with this murder that Sándor Pintér’s name emerged as someone who might know more about the mafia war than he should. I remind you that Sándor Pintér was chief of the Hungarian national police force between 1991 and 1996 and has twice been Viktor Orbán’s minister of interior.
In the 1990s the most important figure of the Russian mafia, the Ukrainian Semion Mogilevich, lived in Budapest. Right now he resides in Moscow and, although the Russian authorities have to be fully aware of all his crimes, he is left to live a life of luxury with his Hungarian wife and three children. Another famous mafia chief and a friend of “Szeva bácsi” (Uncle Seva), as he was called by his friends in Budapest, was the German Dietmar Clodo, who in the 1980s was arrested for bank robbery at least twice in Germany. Eventually Clodo was arrested in Hungary and received a ten-year jail sentence which he was able to serve in Germany. He was released in 2011 and since then has been living in Berlin running a security firm.
What does all this have to do with Pintér? In 1998, after Pintér was nominated to be minister of the interior, the parliamentary committee on national security headed by György Keleti (MSZP) found evidence that Pintér might have been involved with some of the important characters in the Hungarian underworld. Specifically with Clodo. During the interrogation of someone who himself became the victim of the mafia war it came to light that Clodo’s wife testified that a high-ranking policeman, who turned out to be Pintér, visited her husband several times sometime in 1997. This testimony reached the parliamentary committee that was deciding on Pintér’s appointment. During the questioning Pintér had serious mental lapses concerning his relationship to Clodo. At first he denied that he ever met Clodo, but eventually he admitted that he had met him once at a trade show but didn’t know that Clodo was Clodo because he introduced himself as Edward. A few days later Világgazdaság learned that Clodo registered at the trade show under his own name. In brief, Pintér’s story was full of holes.
But that was not all. There is a good possibility that Pintér might have been involved after the fact with the murder of Csaba Lakatos. Although he denied it, according to the police report filled out at the time he either removed the gun found at the crime scene or replaced it with another gun. When the police eventually found the twins who apparently killed Lakatos, a policeman present at the arrest reported that they were relieved when they were arrested and that they said “as long as Uncle Sanyi is the chief of police … we will be safe.” The next day the two men were released from custody.
And back to the present. HVG‘s Antónia Rádai, who once already revealed details about the connection between civil servants and the Hungarian mafia, decided to have an interview with Dietmar Clodo.* Why exactly now is an interesting question. After all, Clodo has been out of jail for the last two or three years. It is possible that Clodo was the one who approached HVG with his story. In any case, Rádai had a long interview with Clodo.
Here it is what she learned. According to Clodo, he met Pintér three times. First, indeed, at the trade show in 1997 when Pintér was no longer the national police chief. Clodo at that point was in the safety glass business and Pintér was the owner of a security firm called Preventív Security. They met two more times, but at the end there was no business deal.
Apparently Pintér’s offer was more than shady. Now shady deals were part and parcel of Clodo’s business practice, but if he took a risk at least he wanted to reap benefits from the deal. What Pintér offered would have benefited only himself. He proposed that Clodo replace the safety glass used in police cars with the kind used in shop windows. Pintér would make sure that the police units in the provinces would buy his safety glass. The difference in price between the real and the inferior glass would go to Pintér. No wonder Clodo said no. If true, this story certainly calls into question Pintér’s “business dealings.” Sándor Pintér, it should be noted, is an extremely rich man.
Potentially even more damning are Clodo’s stories about the connection between the Russian mafia and a Hungarian politician. Semion Mogilevich, whom Clodo described as his friend, asked a favor from Clodo. Mogilevich gave him a Hungarian politician’s telephone number. Clodo was instructed to phone the number and invite the Hungarian politician to his house and hand him a brief case supplied by Mogilevich. Clodo had to insist that the politician open the briefcase on the spot because in Clodo’s study behind the books was a hidden camera which recorded the exchange. There were one million deutschmarks in the briefcase. The exchange took place in 1994. At that time the name of the politician was not familiar to Clodo. “To me he was only one of the many corrupt characters to whom I had to hand similar packages in the middle of the 1990s.” In addition to this encounter there was another meeting with a politician from the same party. “The others were police officers.”
Dietmar Clodo told Antónia Rádai the name of the politician but HVG, after consulting with the paper’s lawyers, decided to withhold it.
The amazing thing is that practically no one picked up on this story. Perhaps one reason is that the younger generation of Hungarian journalists simply don’t remember Clodo or Uncle Seva and don’t realize the significance of this interview. But it is hard to believe that no one is interested in the person who allegedly received the one million marks from Semion Mogilevich in that briefcase. The only reporter who followed up on the interview was György Bolgár, who interviewed Rádai on his radio show. He rightly pointed out that, if this story is true, whoever this politician is can’t feel safe. After all, that video might still be in the possession of Uncle Seva in Moscow.
What about the opposition parties? Well, MSZP and Együtt-PM don’t seem to be too sharp either. It was only DK’s Ágnes Vadai who asked Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt whether he is planning to investigate this old case in light of this new development. Vadai added that if this story is true there are people who play important roles in Hungarian politics who might have committed serious crimes twenty years ago. I guess we can pretty safely predict that if Vadai gets an answer at all it will be in the negative.
*The full interview by Antónia Rádai is still not available on the Internet. I had to rely on summaries of the story given by other publications.
700,000 USD is chunky as a bribe but not as sickening as the millions or hundreds of millions of misdirected EU aid.
OT, my taxi driver tonight tells me everyone is suffering from the recent State intervention in the taxi system – except possibly the owners of the companies who cover taxis with the delightful yellow membrane the car owners will be required to have to do business and will inevitably have when they take their families out at other times.
Basically revenue is down 70% because traffic has plunged following the imposition of a high fixed tariff. Clearly not good for consumers, not good for drivers either he says. OK, my driver was from the Taxi Plusz who were the cheapest on the market (as their radio ad said: with Taxi Plusz you are never in Minusz!). But still worth a mention, I think.
Also OT, but related to the earlier post on disabled people in Hungary:
Peter White, a well known BBC Radio 4 broadcaster, and blind, is currently presenting a series called Blind Man Roans the Globe. This week he was in Budapest, and it was fascinating to hear what it feels like to be blind and in Hungary.
OT A student fourth year basic school needs to learn the phonetic alphabet. No wonder kids hate English language at schools.
Incredible. What nonsense. I couldn’t do it. I never bothered to learn them in the first place. Moreover, a non-native speaker (like most Hungarian-speaking teachers) can’t pronounce perfectly the English sounds anyway. This is especially true about vowels. Unless a child learns a language very early in life in an English (or any other linguistic) environment he will speak the language with an accent. It can be slight or it can be strong. People think, for example, that I’m Scottish. But I do have an accent because I was twenty at the time I got to Canada.
I really don’t get what the point is teaching the phonetic alphabet anymore. It could have been a useful tool 20-30 years ago, in the era of print dictionaries. But nowadays you can listen to the exact pronunciation of the word using an electronic dictionary or the web. There is no need to know the phonetic script of the word to get the pronunciation right.
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