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Right-wing commentator disappointed by Hunvald’s mild sentence

February 29th, 2012

A leading conservative analyst fears that the mild sentence handed down in György Hunvald’s trial is bound to strengthen populist stereotypes according to which the small thieves get caught while the bigger ones get away with their crimes.The municipal court of Budapest sentenced György Hunvald, a former Socialist MP and Mayor of the inner city VIIth District of Budapest, to 18 months’ imprisonment for his involvement in a large-scale fraud. The ruling is under appeal, both by the prosecutor and the defendant. György Hunvald was arrested in February 2009, and has thus spent more time in pre-trial detention thanwhat was eventually included in the sentence. The former mayor will therefore not have to go to prison if the verdict becomes legally binding. György Gál, former Liberal chairman of the economic committee of the district assembly, received a prison sentence of 8 years and 6 months in the same case. An entrepreneur testified that Gál took bribes from him whenever he bought listed buildings from the Mayor’s office at well below the market price. The court ruled that there was no proof of the Mayor’s involvement. Hunvald was convicted of minor offences.

In his blog, Ferenc Kumin, a leading analyst at Századvég (an influential conservative think tank) believes that the decision to sentence György Hunvald to just 18 months, and therefore allow him to walk free, reinforces the stereotype that the more you steal the less likely you are to go to prison.

Kumin does not dispute the verdict, but was shocked by the courts announcement that the ruling unlocked the business jet the former mayor owned (even if only partly). In the eyes of the Hungarian public, the private plane is synonymous with unlimited wealth, while the mayor’s legal income could by no stretch of the imagination cover such luxuries. He was also reported to be the owner of a collection of vintage cars.

The leading conservative analyst promises to continue explaining to impatient right-wing audiences how difficult it is to confiscate illegally acquired property in a democracy, but says he will find that task more difficult after the sentence in Hunvald’s case.

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