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American-Hungarian spy-thriller around a Saudi businessman

November 28th, 2016

Two left-wing analysts disagree on whether the scandal of the residence permit granted to Ghaith Pharaon, a Saudi citizen on Interpol’s wanted list, is part of an immoral business game or an episode in a wider plot against the Hungarian government.

In Népszava, Róbert Friss ridicules the Prime Minister’s view that the recent visa scandal concerning a Saudi investor is part of “an American secret service game.

Mr Pharaon was granted residency in Hungary despite having been wanted in the United States since 1992 for racketeering, money laundering and financing terrorism. Media reports suggest he was introduced to Mr Orban at a dinner party as Professor Pharaon. He allegedly bought valuable buildings, including one which is adjacent to the house of the Prime Minister and another which was sold to him by a company owned by the PMs son-in-law. High ranking government officials said the Hungarian authorities granted his permit after making international enquiries which apparently elicited no negative response. Replying to a question by a Socialist MP, Mr Orbán told him to be careful not to be drawn into an American secret service game.

Friss then quotes US Ambassador Colleen Bell who told ATV television a month later “there are no games here; Pharaon is a wanted individual and it is our hope that he will be brought to justice”. He believes the government is getting increasingly entangled in the web of a Hungarian business game, rather than an American intelligence game.

In a lengthy analysis on 444, on the other hand, Zsolt Sarkadi believes the Prime Minister may be right after all. On the basis of extensive quotes from the findings of a book on Mr Pharaon and his associates, he suggests that the Saudi businessman must have been a CIA agent for decades, and that is why the American authorities have failed to arrest him. He reminds readers that Mr Pharaon asked for a Hungarian visa at a time when Hungarian-US diplomatic relations were extremely tense, as several Hungarian personalities suspected of promoting corruption were banned from entering the United States, (see BudaPost October 20, 2014) He asked the American Embassy whether it was true that the Hungarian authorities had consulted the American side before granting a visa to the Saudi businessman, but the Embassy refused to comment. Sarkadi would find it “naive to suppose that during those months the American side refrained from using its secret services” in the conflicts with the Hungarian government. But even if the case was a set-up, he suggests, the Hungarian secret services made a huge mistake by letting that person get so near to the Prime Minister, due to the greedy people around him, who carelessly walked into the trap”.

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