Budapest, June 19 (MTI) – The government considers the successful integration of the country’s savings cooperatives as an important goal, János Lázár, the government office chief, said at a weekly news briefing on Thursday.
Lázár made the comment in response to question concerning Zoltán Spéder, the head of FHB mortgage bank, who is under a criminal investigation and was, according to Sándor Demján, the chairman of the National Savings Cooperative Association (OTSZ), the “spiritual father and driving force” of the controversial 2013 law that put the country’s savings cooperatives under one roof.
Demján insisted today that an open letter he had written exposing shortcomings in the oversight of the savings cooperatives had prevented the theft by a “group of parasites” of 70-80 billion forints of assets belonging to 130,000 small shareholders. He noted the 10 billion forints after-tax profit of the cooperatives had nosedived over two years to a loss of 2 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, Takarékbank, the bank overseeing the integrated savings cooperatives, had seen its profit grow from 200 million forints to 3.2 billion.
Parliament recently fast-tracked a law on the oversight of the savings cooperatives after Demján’s open letter claiming that the integration had made the sector loss-making.
In a letter responding to Demján’s concerns posted on the government website, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said new legislation would place the entire savings cooperative system under the supervision of the National Bank of Hungary and give it the means to “guarantee the secure, legal and transparent operation of the savings cooperatives”.
Meanwhile, independent experts will evaluate the results of the cooperatives’ integration over the past three years and determine where interests were damaged and “where income flowed out”, as well as which decision-makers should be held responsible, Demján said.
Demján said Orbán would decide on management changes and a government commissioner will be named to oversee the accumulation of communal assets.
The 2013 law placed the savings integration beyond the scope of the financial market watchdog and competition authority, allowing the sector to become “a black hole”, Demjan said, noting that he had protested against the savings cooperative act in the name of OTSZ when it was published.
Lázár said he did not want to comment on Spéder’s involvement while the investigation was under way.