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PM shields MOL CEO

October 12th, 2013

Népszabadság thinks the Croatian move to put the Chief Executive Officer of Hungary’s oil and gas multinational on the international wanted list was too rude for the Hungarian government to tolerate in silence. The Prime Minister has been practically forced to stand behind Mr Hernádi.

The Zagreb Prosecutor suspects Mr Zsolt Hernádi of having bribed former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader into ceding the management rights of INA, the Croatian oil company to MOL. (See BudaPost, 2011 through 2013). The alleged 10 million Euro bribe was among the charges upon which Sanader has been sentenced in the first instance. His case is under appeal. 

Heti Válasz reports that the money never reached Sanader, but was used instead by a businessman charged with multiple counts of fraud, but released upon a plea bargain, after testifying against Sanader. He told the prosecutor that the bribe money had been transferred to him by a Cypriot company owned by MOL. When the Croatian authorities asked Hungary’s Chief Prosecutor to interrogate Hernádi on their behalf in 2011, their request was officially rejected, but as Heti Válasz reports, the MOL CEO was actually interrogated in the presence of Croatian prosecutors, and as a result of an investigation conducted by the Hungarian authorities, the Cypriot company turned out to belong to a Russian oil billionaire, rather than to MOL.

Népszabadság’s Ildikó Csuhaj and Imre Bednárik report that behind the scenes the Hungarian government are demanding that the international arrest warrant against Hernádi be revoked, and  have offered to co-operate with Croatian justice on the Sanader  bribe case. Népszabadság believes that could mean either a video hearing or receiving Croatian prosecutors again to interrogate Mr Hernádi. Unnamed government sources told reporters that assurances have been given by Croatian officials that they don’t intend to exacerbate the controversy.

In a front page editorial Népszabadság finds it telling that PM Viktor Orbán will lay the foundation stone of a new MOL plant in eastern Hungary next week and interprets this as a sign of Mr Orbán’s unflagging support for MOL’s CEO. The international arrest warrant issued by Croatia against the top manager of Hungary’s number one enterprise was too rude a move for the Prime Minister to swallow, Népszabadság believes. On the other hand, removing Hernádi would mobilise a number of rival interest groups potentially keen to grab that key position, and the Prime Minister obviously did not want to open such a destabilising strife six months before the parliamentary elections. All the less so, Népszabadság speculates, since under the circumstances he can feel absolutely safe about the MOL chief and does not have to fear any unpleasant surprises from him.

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