The world of politics was never easy to understand. Diplomacy is especially hard to see through because, in many ways, it is rather vague. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) investigative journalist network and the ProPublica agency led an investigation, in which Direkt36 participated. The investigation found many dubious honorary figures in the world of diplomacy.
Hungary is represented around the world by more than 267 honorary consuls. There are also 68 consuls that are representing other countries in Hungary. The aforementioned international investigation examined thousands of consuls around the world. Among them, they found about 500 people against whom some kind of proceedings were initiated. These include smuggling, corruption, supporting terrorism, money laundering, murder, and drug and weapon trafficking, reports Telex.hu.
The title of honorary consul usually brings many benefits with it to make the life of diplomats easier. In the case of Hungary, there is no salary given to consuls. These titles are usually taken up by wealthy and influential people with good connections, to help strengthen relations between states. Although Hungary has revoked many of the benefits for its honorary consuls after an incident in the 2000s there is still great demand for the titles. However, this does not mean that the title is not being used to conceal shady businesses.
Just to bring you some examples, there is Adel Kassar, who represents Hungary as a consul in Lebanon. He is the CEO of Fransbank and one of the most influential people in Lebanon. He has many connections to Hungary like most consuls do. However, in 2019 a lawsuit was filed against Fransabank for allegedly financing terror attacks, carried out by Hezbollah and Iran.
In another case, there is Makdum Omar Shehryart, an honorary consul in Pakistan. Shehryart is the leader of a megacorporation producing sugar in the country. He is regularly mentioned in the press as a sugar baron and he has strong family ties to politics too. A few years ago Pakistani authorities started an investigation against the businessman based on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and cartel building.
There is also Elada Nagornaya, former Hungarian consul in Nizhny Novgorod. In 2017, Russian authorities arrested his husband for extortion involving about one million dollars. Later on, though, Nagornaya was also charged with tax evasion, which she later paid off. In 2019, her entrustment was terminated by the Hungarian ministry of foreign affairs.
Huge cost, no benefits
After an incident in the 2000s, many benefits were revoked from consuls. The case involved Attila Kulcsár, who amidst a scandal, while the police tried to arrest him, left the country with a car belonging to a consulate. Following this, the process initiated by the then-foreign minister revoked the diplomat registration numbers from the consuls along with their tax benefits. Since this incident, the reputation of honorary consuls has been scarred and they could not get back their previous benefits. They are not seen as true diplomats by the Hungarian government.
How one becomes a consul is a vague process. There are intermediaries managing deals for consul positions around the world, for example. The price may vary, but the “help” of an intermediary usually costs about 50,000-300,000 euros.
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