Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Mild sentences in left-wing corruption cases

February 8th, 2016

Right-wing commentators blame the courts for failing to hand down exemplary sentences to corrupt left-wing businessmen and politicians, while on the Left, the mild verdicts are cited as proof that the charges were at least partly politically motivated.

In Demokrata, László Szentesi Zöldi describes the typical storyline of corruption cases in terms of a huge initial outrage, followed by lengthy juridical procedures, ending in a “suspiciously mild” verdict. People like the managers of the MAL Aluminium Trust whose storage leak caused a flood of red sludge which killed ten people, would be sitting in jail in a country like Romania, he complains. In Hungary they have been acquitted of all the charges in the court of first instance. Former Socialist deputy mayor of Budapest Miklós Hagyó received only a suspended prison sentence, while embezzler broker Attila Kulcsár is still enjoying his liberty, after a late first grade sentence, he remarks. He praises the government for having tried to send leading judges into retirement, and reminds his readers of how much resistance that move triggered in Brussels.

In 168 óra (print edition), Zoltán Lakner recalls that out of the 1400 cases launched by the Special Commissioner for Corruption, appointed by the right-wing government after its victory in 2010, only seven have actually ended up in court. He believes the intention behind most of those cases was “political lynching”. He doesn’t deny the presence of corruption under the left-wing governments of the 2000s, but warns that unfounded accusations create an opportunity for the real perpetrators to appear as innocent victims. The sentences, he believes, should refine our judgement on what he calls “the Orbán regime.” If it were a dictatorship, he writes, most of those cases would have ended with heavy sentences, while under democracy the prosecutors are expected not to launch investigations in unsubstantiated cases, and governing parties should not attack the courts if they don’t agree with a sentence.

In Heti Válasz, the former Government Commissioner accuses the court which handed down a suspended sentence to Mr Hagyó of a “lack of professionalism.” The court believed a witness who withdrew his testimony many years after he had made it, and though they still found the former deputy mayor guilty of abuse of power and malfeasance, he could get way with the mildest possible sentence (two years) and even that was suspended, Gyula Budai complains.

In Élet és Irodalom, financial expert Éva Várhegyi doesn’t believe that Attila Kulcsár, the famous embezzler broker could have run his network for years without being protected by the bank’s CEO, who was acquitted of all charges. The broker had 160 favoured clients to whom he dispatched profits through a taxi driver in plastic bags without properly accounting for that cash in the books of his bank, and got his six and a half year sentence twelve years after his initial arrest. (The case is under appeal. Kulcsár has spent over four years in detention and house arrest and if his verdict were to be corroborated by the appeal court, he should serve only the remaining 18 months.) Out of the 160 clients who were prominent personalities from all walks of public life, only twenty were prosecuted and half of them were found innocent. Várhegyi tends to agree with two investigative journalists who in their book on the K & H Bank case suspected that many of those people, including the CEO were in fact the broker’s accomplices. Nevertheless, she refrains from “overriding the sentence handed down by the court” and accepts that their guilt could not be proved by the prosecutor.

Tags: ,