The Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, handed prison sentences to two suspects in the Sukoró casino case in a binding ruling on Thursday.
The court of third instance sentenced Miklós Tátrai and Zsolt Császy, former leaders of the National Asset Manager (MNV), to three years and two and a half years in prison, respectively, for attempted embezzlement.
In the first instance in September 2015, the two defendants were given four and three and a half years imprisonment, respectively, while in the second instance in October last year they were acquitted due to a lack of criminal activities.
The case goes back to the summer of 2008 when the Socialist-led government, represented by MNV, signed a controversial land-swap contract with Israeli-Hungarian businessman Joav Blum. Ferenc Gyurcsány, prime minister at the time of the transaction, was also investigated for suspected abuse of office in the deal, a charge that was later dropped.
In its ruling, the Kúria criticised the secondary decision for its shortcomings and said that the land-swap had “no justified relevance” for the planned casino project. The defendants must have been aware that the transaction was “not essential” for the planned project and that there was an “obviously huge” difference between the values of the two pieces of land; had it been completed, the transaction would have caused damages of 1.2 billion forints (EUR 3.9m) to the central budget, it said.
The Kúria also criticised the secondary court for its opinion that a meeting held in Parliament back in 2008, attended by Gyurcsány and his finance minister, was purely “protocol”. Gyurcsány and other representatives of his government had voiced support for the casino project and “gave instructions with deadlines”, they said.
In reaction to the ruling, green opposition party LMP said that Gyurcsány, who since then founded the leftist Democratic Coalition (DK), should “bear the political consequences” of the ruling. The party’s co-leader Ákos Hadházy said that the “establishment parties are much more forgiving when on government”. He cited as an example that parliament had invited István Kocsis, former CEO of the Paks nuclear power plant who is suspected of misappropriation of funds, to the oath-taking ceremony of János Süli, minister in charge of the Paks upgrade project. LMP called for the “full replacement of the Hungarian political elite so that real accountability can be created”.
DK said in response to the ruling that once the party enters government, it will imprison the prosecutors and judges involved in the case, as well as the chief public prosecutor and the head of the national judicial office OBH. Deputy party leader László Varjú told a press conference that the former leaders of MNV would be freed and fully compensated. Fidesz has “created” the Sukoro case in order to get Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “main political opponent” Gyurcsány in prison and Tátrai and Császy refused to assist in this with “false statements”.