(MTI) – A special unit of the national police force searched the Budapest headquarters of Okotars, a foundation coordinating the distribution of funds from the EEA/Norway Grants in Hungary, under suspicion of embezzlement and unauthorised financial activities, the police told MTI on Monday.
According to press reports on Monday morning, a “large number” of police occupied the Okotars premises.
At MTI’s enquiry, Okotars director Veronika Mora said that the police had seized documents from the offices and from the home of a staff member, as well as a laptop from her house. She called the search “outrageous and absolutely unnecessary” and insisted that they would have sent the documents to the police had they been asked for.
On September 3, the daily Magyar Nemzet referred to an unnamed organisation which was suspected of having granted loans totalling nearly 100 million forints (EUR 318,000) to 17 civil groups without a licence for such activities.
The opposition E-PM party said the raid was part of a politically motivated procedure and accused the government of “Putinist methods” and trying to intimidate civil organisations, which “defend what is left of Hungarian democracy”.
The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called on the government to stop its “attacks” on the civil society. Csaba Molnar, managing deputy head of the party, referred to “intimidation by police” and called it unacceptable that the government should “send riot police against a civil group which performs social functions the government is not capable of”.
According to the Socialist Party, the police did not have the legal grounds to occupy the foundation’s headquarters. Gergely Barandy, Socialist deputy chair of parliament’s legislative committee, said that Monday’s crackdown, which he said was evocative of a police state, could “terrify the entire civil sector”. Prime Minister Viktor Orban must not “consider Putin’s illiberal autocracy as an example”.
The green opposition LMP protested in a statement and called the police action a “demonstration of power against critics”.
The party insisted that such a demonstration of power was more important for the government than revealing the truth, and demanded an explanation for the “attack on a civil group”.