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András Becker The Circulation of Oligarchs All attempts to uncover the true wealth of the Orbán family and the origin of this wealth have so far ended with an embarrassing lack of success— whether it be the activity of a parliamentary inquiry commission in 2005 or an audit by the national tax authority two years later. The latter has become ingrained in the public consciousness as an investigation into the attainment of his wealth—but, actually, the tax authority only audited the party leader’s tax returns. The tax audit visibly demonstrated the impotence of the current Hungarian government with respect to the moneymaking that politicians engage in: the end result was a revision of the numbers, with the tax office giving Orbán a refund of HUF 135,000. However, in 2007 party leader Viktor Orbán and his wife, Anikó Lévai, already possessed at least HUF 200 million in property assets, the origin of which is still not completely clear. Indeed, the noticeable growth of the family’s wealth and the real market value of this wealth cannot be explained in any reassuring way from the couple’s apparent and verified income, and thus far no explanation for it has been made public. Of course, the prime minister’s official declarations of assets are available, but nobody takes these statements of wealth given by political figures seriously: indeed, there are no sanctions at all, not even of a purely political nature, for incorrect or fraudulent declarations . For example, Lőrinc Mészáros, Orbán’s regent in the town of Felcsút, corrected his declaration of assets with laconic simplicity when it was revealed that the statement did not include HUF 1 billion in dividends. But a whole array of politicians from the ruling party have been dealt with in a i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 111 2016.12.07. 15:47 112 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE similar way when the media uncovered assets they own that are not listed on their asset declarations—and there have not been any consequences in even a single case. Two emblematic phrases by Prime Minister Orbán nicely characterize the relationship between how wealth is attained by the public and by politicians . (Orbán is perhaps the only democratically elected political leader who, when asked, managed to say, “I have never lied” without batting an eyelid.) During his first term as prime minister in 2002, and in a closed discussion with executives of a business venture that his wife was also an owner of, Orbán stated in connection with an application for a public grant that, “[out of all the applicants] we shouldn’t win the most.” Orbán himself did not even subsequently deny the fact that he made the statement, and the company actually did receive a significant amount of public funds, but there were no consequences resulting from this affair either. Twelve years later, in connection with the soccer stadium in Felcsút that was built primarily with public money, a reporter inquired from Orbán as to how it felt to have a stadium built by public funds right at the edge of his garden. The prime minister and party leader responded without batting an eyelid, “There are no public funds in this [project].” Eight days after Orbán’s statement, the 2013 annual report of the foundation building the stadium that extended to the edge of Orbán’s garden was released, with the following item clearly visible: Aid from the central budget: HUF 734,222,000. But the foundation also received HUF 500 million from the Ministry of Human Capacities and an additional HUF 3.5 billion in corporate tax contributions that year. Altogether , this amounted to nearly HUF 5 billion in public funds. The two statements and the two projects indicate how little things change: politicians, and thus the inability to call Orbán to account as well as the unscrupulousness that results from this, have not changed a bit over the past decade. But what has changed is the method of channeling public funds for private purposes. While the prime minister during his first administration (1998–2002) was actively involved in various business affairs through his wife, since the formation of the second Orbán government in 2010, the Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere (System of National Cooperation; NER) has provided primarily business magnates close to the family with more...


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MARC Record
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