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MSZP vice chairman’s undeclared assets case still in focus

February 17th, 2014

A business weekly suggests that the mishandling of public funds in the 18th district of Budapest (in the pre-2010 period) must have given ample opportunity for Socialist luminaries to enrich themselves. A liberal commentator thinks that accusing Fidesz of having an even bigger appetite since then is no answer to the present case in which a leading Socialist politician was caught red handed.

In Figyelő, Gergely Brückner and Hajnalka Cseke describe the alleged wrongdoings of local Socialist officials in the 18th district of the capital, where Gábor Simon, the protagonist of the latest financial-political scandal was a council member from 2005 to 2010. Mr Simon, who also served as State Secretary of Labour, was chairman of the Socialist Party National Board and became Party Chairman Attila Mesterházy’s deputy in what was advertised as a wave of renewal after the landslide right wing victory in 2010 He had to resign from the party in February 2014, when it turned out that he held the equivalent of 240 million Forints on a secret Austrian bank account. (See BudaPost, February 6 and 10  .) A criminal investigation was launched into the affair when he resigned from Parliament as well. Figyelő reports that his bank account was reported to the Hungarian authorities by their Austrian counterparts after his name surfaced as a suspect in an earlier criminal investigation. The former Socialist mayor of the district, Figyelő recalls, was challenged by a group of young party activists, and Mr Simon was one of them. When the former mayor was not re-nominated before the local elections in 2010, he complained in public about the dubious morals of his internal rivals, and Figyelő even found traces of mysterious off shore enterprises behind the lavish contracts that plunged the local administration deep into debt. Of the 34 complaints lodged with the judicial authorities, none has gone to trial so far, but now that Mr Simon has not explained the origin of the sum on his undeclared bank account, Figyelő believes that some of those files will certainly be reopened.

Figyelő’s editor Zoltán F. Baka, who used to be a Népszabadság business commentator, argues that Mr Simon’s 240 million forints are trifles compared to the sums kept on the proxy accounts by leading politicians. He calls that system “an old but illegal form of trusteeship”.

In the first of his regular weekly twin editorials in Magyar Narancs, Endre B. Bojtár says that accusing government officials of even bigger sins is not an acceptable answer to the questions which Gábor Simon’s case raises. Corruption and embezzlement cases should not be relativized, he writes, but should be judged in themselves. And behind Mr Simon himself, he mentions among the culprits those Socialist Party leaders who never suspected that something was wrong, although Mr Simon was buying expensive flats the prices of which were obviously out of proportion with his legal income. The Socialist suffered a crushing defeat in 2010 because of their earlier corruption cases, and they should have paid more attention to undeclared funds since then. On top of it all, the only thing they can offer less than two month before the election is a promise to steal less than their opponents, and to get rid of those among their own ranks who get caught. “That is a very thin offer”, the editor of Magyar Narancs warns.

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