Budapest, August 18 (MTI) – Hungary’s Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt has asked parliament to lift the immunity of Fidesz MP Roland Mengyi on suspicion of corruption involving public funds, a prosecution spokesman said on Thursday.
Political weekly 168 Óra reported earlier this month that in 2015 Mengyi solicited bribes from social cooperatives in exchange for preferential treatment in their bids for European Union funding. The case involves five suspects, Géza Fazekas said.
The investigation into the case was at first conducted by a local criminal investigation unit of tax office NAV but was later taken over by the prosecution’s Central Investigation Office once a person with parliamentary immunity was linked to the case, Fazekas added.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Mengyi had solicited a kickback of 5 million forints (EUR 16,100) from social cooperatives — a “constitutional fee” — in exchange for helping them receive EU funds. Mengyi had asked for another 5 million forints after the funds were received.
The prosecution said the suspects intended to use the 500 million forints worth of EU funds available to boost their own wealth. Their plan, allegedly, was to sign fictitious contracts with certain entrepreneurs through the cooperatives detailing how the funds would be spent. The plan was then to transfer most of the money back to themselves.
The prosecution said Mengyi, in his talks with the cooperatives, agreed that they would receive 10 percent of the funds. In certain cases, representatives of the cooperatives were misled by the suspects and other times their signatures were forged on the applications.
The bids were ultimately rejected due to formal and other errors and no payments were made to the cooperatives. Mengyi later paid back the 5 million forints he had asked for in advance, prosecutors said.
They said the Fidesz MP was fully aware that the applications were fictitious and that the suspects had no intention of spending the funds as for the purposes for which they were intended.
Two of the five suspects are in pre-trial detention and three are under house arrest.
Mengyi later released a statement saying that he would fully cooperate with authorities and ask parliament to suspend his immunity so that he can clear his name as soon as possible.
The Socialist Party on Thursday vowed to amend a criminal complaint it had filed against Mengyi to include complicity to fraud. Citing the latest issue of 168 Óra, lawmaker Balázs Bárány said that investigators had been getting ready to bust Mengyi in the act of accepting a bribe but the operation was ditched “by some miracle”. “We are curious to know the reasons for this,” Bárány said.
Bárány said 168 Óra’s latest article also indicated that a company specialised in writing tenders with ties to Fidesz, allegedly involved in the case, was already working on the next fictitious tender when authorities were preparing to bust the operation.
The Socialist Party demands that the prosecution’s investigation “cover all activities of the entire Fidesz criminal gang” and that the office release all of its classified documents about the case, Bárány said.
This is the first case in which one of the “Fidesz mafia” has been brought before a court, Viktor Szigetvári, Egyutt’s leader, told a news conference. He insisted a man in the state administration had informed the perpetrators about various stages of the criminal investigation. He raised the question why had the prosecutor not allowed NAV investigators to get to the people in line for kickbacks.
The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party welcomed prosecution pressure to lift Mengyi’s immunity. PM board member Richard Barabas said it was the first correct move the prosecutor had made in years and a sign that the rule of law is still alive in Hungary.
The Jobbik party said Fidesz was using Mengyi’s case to divert attention from the dealings of cabinet chief Antal Rogán and others close to the prime minister “involved in very serious mafia dealings”. Jobbik deputy leader János Volner said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán should take personal responsibility and dismiss Rogán, Mengyi and politicians involved in similar cases.
Green opposition LMP said there were several lawmakers whose immunity should be suspended and whose business dealings investigated. József Gál, the party’s spokesman, said if no further investigations are carried out, then the suspension of Mengyi’s immunity would end up being just a small step in the right direction. He noted that his party gives regular weekly news conferences detailing the corruption cases of government officials.