Budapest, March 7 (MTI) – Former Socialist politician Janos Zuschlag, who was sentenced to prison for graft, said he had been bribed by the Socialist party in 2006 to step down as a parliamentary candidate. The opposition Socialist Party and Democratic Coalition both denied the accusations as false.
The Socialists, when learning that he was planning on running for office again in 2006, after giving back his mandate two years earlier, gave Zuschlag 50 million forints (EUR 161,780) in cash so that he would step down from the candidacy, Zuschlag told Friday’s business daily Napi Gazdasag in an interview.
Zuschlag had to return his mandate in 2004 for making a joke about the victims of the Holocaust at an official commemoration.
Later he was given a prison sentence of eight and a half years by a county court for siphoning off state funds totalling around 75 million forints (EUR 242,000) and channeling them into the Socialist party’s youth organisations. A Szeged court reduced the sentence to six years and Zuschlag was released in September last year. He and seven of 15 associates were convicted of setting up a network of local foundations in the mid-1990s and appointing trusted colleagues to head them with a view to embezzling state funds.
Zuschlag told Napi Gazdasag that when youth minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, former prime minister and now leader of the Democratic Coalition, had known about misdeeds in his office.
“Gyurcsany knew about everything, he had a say in everything and signed everything,” Zuschlag told the paper. He said that when Gyurcsany was in charge of tenders at the Ministry of Children, Youth and Sports, there were bids which “had to come out as winners” and the minister knew about this.
Zuschlag said that when an investigation started against him in 2004 for a long time he was not worried. Things only turned serious in 2007, when his home was searched and everyone “was nervous” then, he said, adding that Ildiko Lendvai, the head of the Socialists’ parliamentary group at the time, was worried that the case could go further up.
He said that another 50 million forints paid to the court in compensation was administered by his lawyer, and he did not ask for this.
“My lawyer came and said he had transferred 50 million forints from his lawyer’s account for compensation of damages,” he said, adding that the money probably came from a safe at the Socialists’ headquarters. Zuschlag said he had seen the safe and it looked like it contained a few hundred million forints in cash, which in his opinion were there to fund “fishy deals and the party leader’s campaigns”.
He said that the reason he decided to give an interview was the recent Gabor Simon case. He said it was shocking that the same party leaders who “had made a scapegoat out of me without reservations […] are still corrupt to the core”. He insisted that it is not possible Simon could have gained access to that much money alone.
Simon quit his post as the party’s deputy leader and gave up his seat in parliament in February, after reports that he had undeclared assets worth 240 million forints (EUR 780,000) held on an Austrian bank account.
Zsolt Greczy, a spokesman for the Democratic Coalition, told MTI that “a criminal” had been interviewed by the head of a research institute close to the ruling Fidesz party, Gabor Fodor G., which was a “strange” attempt at credibility.
He added that Zuschlag did not take the opportunity to prove his accusations when he was charged or even during his trial. At the same time the recordings made at his hearings are posted on the internet, revealing that Zuschlag had argued that Gyurcsany was not supportive of his corrupt dealings.
Bernadett Budai, a spokesperson for the Socialist party, said not a single word of Zuschlag’s was true. She told a press conference that Fidesz interests were behind the attempt to “warm up a ten-year old case”. She also charged the interview’s author with bias towards the governing Fidesz party and suggested that perhaps Zuschlag was advertising his book to be published next week.
The ruling Fidesz party awaits answers to the questions raised in the Zuschlag interview, the party’s spokesperson Gabriella Selmeczi, told a press conference. She said the party was “very surprised” to hear Zuschlag’s new story and are waiting for an explanation from the Socialists.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party said it was filing criminal complaints on several grounds regarding the interview that appeared in Friday’s Napi Gazdasag. Janos Volner, the party’s deputy leader, told a press conference that Jobbik will urge the government to start an investigation into how the left could be “dishing out money by the hundred millions” and whether the funds had any connection with organised crime.