Officials of national tax authority NAV conducted a search for documents in a criminal investigation at the Budapest offices of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (MET) on Monday.
“Over the course of the criminal proceedings, the necessity of locating and seizing a set of documents emerged,” NAV said, adding that it could not release further details due to the ongoing investigation.
The Oltalom Charity Association said on its website on Feb. 22 last year that due to financial difficulties it owed NAV 246 million forints (EUR 690,000) in unpaid payroll taxes which included a 90 million forint penalty for delay.
“We are incapable of paying back in the form of either a tax or debt repayment the amount we are entitled to but have not received over the past several years,”
the charity said.
“Let us emphasise that with the money taken away from us we do not fund our church’s religious activities, but give the poorest hope to recover, live a dignified life and build a future.”
Addressing an opposition demonstration staged over the search of the MET offices, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said pastor Gábor Iványi, head of the MET, embodied the Hungarian nation’s conscience.
The mayor said he believed the reason why Prime Minister Viktor Orban was “bothered by” Ivanyi was because the pastor “reminds him of the democrat he once used to be, who betrayed everything he once stood for, and who today represents his own interests instead of those of the public”.
Ivanyi presented the minutes of the search compiled by NAV, which revealed that the authority had seized computers and documents from several of the MET’s schools and elderly care homes across the country.
“We don’t know what they were looking for, but it is certain that they will find it,” he said, adding that he believed NAV’s operation was “an own goal”.
“We want to live in a country where we won’t have to be afraid anymore,” Iványi said.
“Where laws aren’t passed on Christmas Eve or during the night, where elections don’t involve cheating and where the press isn’t taken over in its entirety.”
He said the reason why the MET owed NAV money was because the state had refused to pay the charity what is has been due to receive under a 2017 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, adding that the Methodist church was now owed around 12 billion forints.