Today I will return to József Debreczeni’s book on “The Fidesz robber barons.” This time the topic will be the enrichment of the Orbán family, which included Viktor Orbán’s father, Győző, between 1998 and 2002–that is, while he was prime minister.
Debreczeni, who for years taught high school history before he became a politician and subsequently a writer on politics, notes that although political corruption has had a long history in Hungary, the highest political dignitaries did not dirty their hands with money grubbing. Not so Viktor Orbán who, as investigative journalists discovered, systematically exploited his position for financial gain.
Just to put things in perspective, here are a couple of figures. In 1998 Orbán and his wife had 5.5 hectares of agricultural land. Four years later they had 11.5 times more. In 1994 the couple purchased an apartment for 563,000 forints in downtown Budapest. In 2002 they purchased a villa in the most elegant section of Buda for 75 million forints, which they enlarged and renovated to the tune of tens of millions.
Viktor Orbán’s father Győző–which by the way is the Hungarian equivalent of Viktor–had two smallish quarries worth 98 million forints. Four years later, he was worth 666 million forints.
The Orbáns were involved in two separate business ventures. Neither is pretty.
Their first business venture took them to Tokaj. Dezső Kékessy, a wealthy Hungarian businessman from Switzerland who left Hungary after the 1956 revolution but returned to Hungary after 1990, was looking for business opportunities. Tokaj seemed like a good prospect. During the socialist period Tokaj, which had had a very good name before the second world war, lost its luster due to the general deterioration of viticulture in Hungary. The stock was old, so vineyards could be had for relatively little money. Kékessy and Orbán met and became friends and eventually business partners. Well, that’s not quite precise. On paper Kékessy’s business partner was Orbán’s wife, Anikó Lévai. I might add that Orbán eventually named Kékessy ambassador to France.
The Orbáns’ share in the company that Kékessy formed was relatively small, but the Orbáns naturally became key business partners due to Orbán’s position. First, he made sure that the grapes the company produced found a market. There was an ailing state company in Tokaj that was still the major buyer of grapes in the region. Since the head of the state bottling company was appointed by Orbán, they had a ready market for their grapes. In fact, in 2000 the state company bought grapes only from the Orbán-Kékessy vineyard. Orbán also made sure that the state bottling company had money to buy their grapes. In 2000, the government financially strengthened the ailing company with the injection of 1.5 billion forints. In 2001 another 2.5 billion was invested in the company. And it kept buying the prime minister’s grapes, even though there was a glut in the wine market.
The Fidesz government also offered what amounted to a “friends and family” package. István Stumpf, who headed the prime minister’s office in those days, had a large, extended family in the region, some of whom owned vineyards. In 1998 the Stumpf family managed to sell only 5 million forints worth of grapes, but after cousin István became an important man in the government they did exponentially better. In 2000 their sales were 17.7 million and in 2001 30.6 million. Two Stumpfs were actually employees of the bottling company, and it was their cousin in Budapest who approved pumping billions into the state company.
But that wasn’t all. The Orbán-Kékessy company asked for state subsidies for the improvement of their vineyards. The owners got together to discuss business matters, often in Viktor Orbán’s apartment. It was during one of these meetings that Orbán warned his business partners to be cautious about the subsidies: “we shouldn’t be the ones who get the most.” Obviously he was worried about someone discovering his interest in the company. So they didn’t get the most, only the second most. In 2001 570 people received subsidies for vineyard improvements. Only two got over 40 million forints. The first received 44,636 forints, and the second, the Orbán-Kékessy concern, 41,475. In addition, on two other occasions their company received an additional 64.5 million forints in subsidies.
The other setting for the growing Orbán empire was Felcsút, the village where Orbán spent his early childhood. Of course, nowadays we hear mostly about the Puskás Football Academy and the huge stadium for 3,500 in a village of 1,800 inhabitants. But twelve years ago the expansion of Orbán’s holdings was still in its infancy. Here too, the launch of the Orbán empire was shady. In 2001 the Orbáns purchased 54 hectares of agricultural land for half the price of what land sold for in those days in the County of Fehér. Anikó Lévai purchased the land from Sándor Bognár, the head of a large state farm in the vicinity (an Orbán appointee). Two weeks after Bognár sold the land to the Orbáns, the state farm without competitive bidding was privatized. And who became the majority owner of the farm? Sándor Bognár.
But that is not the end of the story. Felcsút and five villages around it received a 2.7 billion forint state subsidy for water control. Apparently flooding is not a problem in the area. In fact, these villages receive less than the average amount of precipitation. The ministry in charge put the Felcsút application in thirtieth place on their list of ranked applications. Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, stopped the discussion and made the documentation of the parliamentary commission a state secret. Against the recommendations of the ministry he placed the Felcsút project at the head of the list.
After Felcsút received this subsidy, the puzzle of the low price of the land that Sándor Bognár sold to the Orbáns was solved. It turned out that Bognár had purchased the land from two sisters who had additional acreage, which now the local government purchased on the government subsidy for the purpose of building rain collectors. The sisters received 10 million forints for about three hectares, seven times the average price of land in and around Felcsút. This is how the two sisters got compensated for selling their land for half price to the Orbáns and the Hungarian taxpayers footed the bill.
As a result of the large government investments in and around Felcsút, real estate prices have skyrocketed. The land the Orbáns bought for 5 million is today worth 34.4 million. It is also possible that the status of this land might be changed from “agricultural” to “land for development.” In that case it could be worth 400 million forints.
And finally, a few words about Győző Orbán’s business ventures. Dunaferr, a steel plant, was in those days still a state company. After Orbán took office the management of the company was changed. Soon thereafter Dunaferr signed a five-year contract with Győző Orbán’s quarry to supply gravel and concrete for Dunaferr. He was the low bidder but later it turned out that the contract didn’t include transportation costs that were separately billed. These costs had to be considerable because Orbán’s quarry was a great deal farther from Dunaferr than the company that had supplied the materials previously.
It turned out that the elder Orbán also supplied material for road construction as a subcontractor. His son later denied his father’s business connection with Vegyészgép, which received the construction job without competitive bidding. But Viktor Orbán didn’t tell the truth. Győző Orbán, in anticipation of the large order from Vegyépszer, managed to get the rights to quarry rock and gravel. Once his son warned him about the dangers of getting state orders, he passed these rights on to one of his men, who established a new company called Femol Kft.
As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The team Orban/Kover/Matolcsy/Martonyi are tied into one unit, to defend each other’s wealth. There is no other purpose for them outside of this objective.
Under Horthy it was the same.
The nation must rise up under the leadership Gyurcsany, Debreceni, Bauer…. outside of the DK there is no force to demand justice.
Mammma Mia ! Sforza Ungarese ! Come (It) Berlusconi ! Eva, Cara, how can you be sooo cruel and rip them clothes of our King ! Shaaaame !!!! Shaaaame !!!!
Here are some photos on the event as Debreczeni introduced the book to his buddies.
No photo on the audience though, one can only gues why. Was it because so few people were attending or probably they were 70+…or both.
@Max, wishful thinking. It has already sold out. Hungarian Octopus is in its third printing after a week or so.
@Eva: I think it would be interesting to many people to know the names of the wine growing company that Kékessy and Orbán erected and the companies in Tokaj that made it a preferred business partner. It should not be left to guesswork. I assume that Debreczeni has revealed the names in his book.
Sure thing. The only reason I didn’t give the whole name of the company because it is extremely long. But here it is: Szárhegy Dűlő–Sárazsadány–Tokajhegyalja Kft.
OT but this blog, for all its primeval anger, is spot-on: http://index.hu/bloghu/vastagbor/2013/11/28/mesterhazy_es_te_mit_tettel_nav-ugyben
I believe I wrote exactly the same thing but with less anger: MSZP shot himself in the foot. Nobody will ever believe that they are innocent.
Mesterházy Has to Go…
That’s obvious by now. Gyurcsány is quite right when he says that M’s judgment and actions are too often too closely Orbán-like for comfort and confidence. (I wish I knew who Gy has in mind in M’s place; he hinted at it last might on Olga Kálmán’s program.) Bajnai is still much preferable, but he is weak and too easily influenced by those who advise him. Gy himself is, I believe, intelligent, honest and well-intentioned, but much better as an orator than a governor…
Here is another huge fraud:
New “agricultural committees” will decide who can buy agricultural land and lots of other issues in Hungary by the new Fidesz law.
To nobody’s surprise, only Fidesznik insider farmers were invited to elect these committees nationwide.
Ninety-five percent of the farmers were excluded from decision making.
Obviously, there is no bottom in building dictatorship in Hungary
While 40 people have been fired from Pecs University for lack of money, the President of the university is on a 3-week trip to Brazil with 17 other people paid by the same university.
Orban’s sidekick Szijjarto and the fidesznik president of the Academy of Sciences are also relaxing in South America, their trip is also paid by the taxpayers.
I suspect that Gyurcsany was ‘too soft’ and listened to advisors too much the first time around. I think he knows better now. Given another chance, I think he’d be good.
Of course, Hungarians don’t have the wit to know he’s been shamefuly, character-assasinated by the Felcsutian king.
By the way, has anyone seen the picture of Orban in an over-sized, checkered jacket
when he’s about 18 years old? If there ever was a picture of a Felcsutian looking for his best advantage…. I’ve been trying to find the picture online but can’t. It’s priceless.
@petofi Here you are: http://bit.ly/1exKLnZ
Anyone interested, there is a possibility to buy the “Magyar polip – A posztkommunista maffiaállam” online as e-book, – at the moment only in Hungarian, but anyway:
Quite a few interesting books find you there, even from Debreczeni, I hope, the “Robber Barons” will turn up soon too.
Have a good reading!
I think, this is even better:
There is some Hungarian proverb regarding the hat of God, – it must look pretty much like this..!
New decree from the Orban government:
Public property can be handed over for free (!) from now on:
magyarkozlony. hu, Nov 29, 2013
pp. 83,412 & 83,413
You can find it on the
address, – quite a frightening reading.
I keep wondering, when, if ever the populace will wake up finally and will properly identify the current government as born again communists – with some nationalistic flavour, mind you – who they really are, and act accordingly.
That would be the day to write home about….
You should warn people not to click on that link with a mouthfull of food. Bit messy here now…
Sorry, I failed to mention: this is part of a National Fitness Program!
Eat less and be healthy! In case, you haven’t lost your appetite in good time, that is.
Otherwise the government is working hard to achieve this goal, they are about to succeed..
“current government as born again communists”
“Communist” is a FALSE label for Fidesz. In Hungary, at least, Communists did not give away public property to friends & family, as per governmental policy.
Every existing “communist” system was dictatorial, but there were plenty of non-communist or even anti-communist dictatorships in history.
He is unbelievable
He argues that since there are 82 opposition+independent, therefore Jobbik is not needed for the 78 signatures. Should I believe he doesn’t realize that several among the independents are ex-Jobbik just as unacceptable as their parties? I don’t think so…
If I was Lmp, I would just put the signature sheet under the MSZP and DK noses, and get the necessary Jobbik signatures after. As stupid as they are, they might not even realize is. This whole affair shows me clearer than anything else how much they are not serious about changing the government.
Jano, DK is asking members and supporters to vote on the issue. I think, the “yes” will win.
Eva: I just read about it, we’ll see tomorrow. It might even be too late, as considerable damage is already done. Obviously in case yes wins DK can probably expect a carpetbombing from MSZP on being a Nazi-collaborant. Politics is sickening. Good topic for the next few weeks.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s such a big shift to say that we only cooperate with Nazis when they don’t behave as Nazi’s and we are never giving them anything in return for their support. That is the rational thing to do. If there is any slight hope left for victory, are they going to back off from anything Jobbik says yes to? Like let’s say abolishing the flat tax rate?
You’re right, of course.
However, instead of going into analysing the true ideological identity of the Fidesz, I chose to simplify, using the terminology favoured by the very same bunch, hoping that even they can grasp that something is pretty much off from their official party line.
Well, maybe next time.
I agree with you, Jano. Inflexibility in politics is not recommended. The United Kingdom and the USA allied themselves with the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler although they knew what Stalin was all about. But they decided that under the circumstances such an alliance was less of an evil than Hitler running down both Russia and the rest of Europe.
The democratic parties can cooperate with Jobbik if Jobbik’s position is acceptable and it is acceptable in this case. Moreover, the Jobbik votes are necessary in order to set up a committee to investigate the case. Of course, it is another matter whether Fidesz will allow the formation of such a committee. Most likely not. They never did between 1998 and 2002 or since 2010 as opposed to the socialist-liberal periods when every such committee suggested by the Fidesz was allowed to function. Mind you the Hungarian version of these investigative committees have no teeth whatsoever. No subpoena power and no testimony under oath.
Eva: That is true. But if nothing else, such a committee can serve as means to keep the topic alive, and provide further former or current NAV employees with a place where they can come forward. I have no illusions that anything further would be achieved, but not even setting it up would send a horrible message in itself.
All prejudices are the same.
Jobbik paints a rosy picture about itself, because there are a few “noble” individuals in the party.
Jobbik paints an ugly picture about the past cpmmunists because there were a few really repulsive sadists among the communists.
All the prejudices are such blind generalizations.
Who would mention the anti gypsy/jew thugs in the Jobbik rows by Jobbik. Insider blindness ruins their objectivity?
We all should be free of this narrow judgements.
Another piece of news. Long lines out on the street waiting for Debreczeni to sign the book. The owner of the bookstore made them malted wine because it was cold and the wait was long. Sorry Max.
Tell me, you really think that all that information Debreczeni collected in this book is no more than a bunch of lies? Figments of the investigative journalists’ imagination?
Most – if not all – the information was published already in various forms, either as news, or part of another article. Putting it in context and presenting in its wholeness makes it interesting, and makes you glare at the whole picture: such nice people they really are..!
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