Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Gyurcsány cleared of casino real estate corruption charges

July 23rd, 2012

Commentators agree that in a dictatorship the charges levelled against former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány would not have been dropped. With just one exception: his long-term aide believes the real reason is PM Orbán’s weakening position.

The Budapest prosecutor has shelved Mr Gyurcsány’s file “for lack of evidence” in the King’s City Gambling Compound case, on the shore of Lake Velence, south-west of the capital. He was suspected of being embroiled in a land swap that was reversed after his resignation in 2009, because it was considered highly disadvantageous for the treasury. Three of Mr Gyurcsány’s subordinates have been indicted for the attempted mishandling of public property. The former left-wing Prime Minister has also spoken out in their defence.

Zsolt Gréczy, former advisor to Mr Gyurcsány during his premiership, bitterly attacks LMP founder András Schiffer, who lodged the original complaint against Mr Gyurcsány for abuse of office. In his blog Gréczy suspects Schiffer of doing Fidesz a favour in exchange for the help his party may have received from them in collecting the signatures necessary to have candidates at the last parliamentary election. Gréczy refuses to read the final outcome as proof of the rule of law functioning correctly. He believes the prosecutor dropped the charges because PM Orbán’s “regime is wobbling” and it is “no longer worthwhile serving him uncritically.” He also suspects that Hungary is under too much international scrutiny to be able to get away with “a show trial against an opponent who defeated Orbán in 2006,” especially at a time when an IMF delegation is conducting bail-out talks in Budapest.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság sees the issue somewhat differently. The left-wing daily believes the decision taken by the prosecutor proves that (what the governing party calls) the ‘system of national co-operation’ “is not a dirty dictatorship, but neither is it a democratic regime functioning under the rule of law.”  In a dictatorship, in fact, the prosecutor would hardly have stopped short of indicting a political opponent suspected of a crime. However, the authors continue, in a democracy it would be unthinkable to level charges against a former premier, suspend his parliamentary immunity and conduct a smear campaign against him for years, without solid evidence to hand.

In Heti Világgazdaság, László Tamás Papp remarks ironically that the main loser of the recent events is Mr Gyurcsány himself, as he has been deprived of a lot of air time that would have been extremely helpful in keeping his new party (Democratic Coalition) afloat. His role in the land swap was rather indirect and therefore he did not risk a severe sentence anyway. Papp thinks “there are problems with the judiciary,” but not to the point of imposing absurd and politically motivated sentences on the courts. Interestingly, the liberal commentator continues, ten years ago the Socialist-Liberal government also appointed a member of parliament to uncover the financial abuses of the previous right-wing administration. Then László Keller was appointed State Secretary, while two years ago a Fidesz MP, Gyula Budai got the job  as Government Commissioner. Mr Keller assembled various files on supposed abuses by former officials, but all his files and allegations were turned down by either the police or the prosecution. At that time, the left-wing press suspected that the chief prosecutor appointed by the conservative government was to blame. Now the same chief prosecutor happens to be back in office, and his subordinates have dropped the charges against a left-wing leader. The lesson Papp draws from these events is that ”if we want to use law enforcement and the judiciary for political purposes, the outcome will be neither justice, nor improved public morality.”

In Magyar Nemzet, Matild Torkos expresses her disgust that Ferenc Gyurcsány was cleared of the charges. She believes it is “well-known by any citizen interested in public affairs,” that the investors who planned to build a casino city on shore of Lake Velence negotiated their project with Ferenc Gyurcsány. On that occasion it was decided that they would acquire the land required for their project via a swap, “in order to avoid a tender and thereby face competition, eventually.”

But that is not all: Torkos thinks “someone has to be held responsible,” for either the suspicion has been levelled at a former Prime Minister, despite his innocence, or the investigation was not conducted with sufficient thoroughness. She apparently leans towards the latter explanation, although she admits that the affair is now closed. Nevertheless she invites the unnamed person to whom she addresses her comment, to tell the public whether this “bizarre decision” is in any way related to certain steps taken by the US Embassy. She claims in fact that the Embassy staff , “even at the price of appearing to interfere with our internal affairs” have “pestered the chief prosecutor and the government commissioner in connection with on-going penal procedures against Socialist Party politicians.”

Tags: , ,