Hungary’s propaganda minister, Antal Rogán, who is suing anti-corruption crusader Péter Juhász for defamation, failed to turn up for the second time to his own trial Thursday afternoon.
Previously, Rogán justified his failure to attend court on the grounds that he had to travel abroad on previously scheduled official business (which turned out to be false). However, this time he employed a truly novel approach: calling a press conference to announce that he was skipping his own trial because the defendant and one of the witnesses were conspiring to impugn his reputation.
At the press conference only hours before the trial was to begin, the senior Fidesz politician announced that he would not attend court because he did not want “in any way to assist the joint action of Péter Juhász and convicted underworld figure Tamász Portik” to accuse him of bribery. The prime minister’s chief of staff/minister for propaganda said he had already submitted written testimony that had been notarized, and that as the plaintiff he was not required to personally confront Portik in court. He repeated his claim that he had never met Portik, let alone accepted a bribe from him despite photograph evidence which indicates that the two did meet on at last one occasion.
Rogán sued Juhász last year for calling him a “criminal” in connection to the sale of Budapest District 5 real estate at below market prices to businessmen close to Fidesz, including certain underworld figures. In a plot twist worthy of a John Grisham novel, Juhász produced the convicted Portik to testify that he had personally paid Rogán a HUF 10 million bribe (in euros) while the latter was mayor of District 5.
Rogán, in turn, accused Juhász of conspiring with Portik to falsely accuse him of bribery. Prosecutors have declined to open an investigation based on Portik’s testimony for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Rogán is the third-most powerful politician in Hungary, or that the wife of Hungarian chief prosecutor Péter Polt is one of the highest-paid senior managers at the National Bank of Hungary.
According to the press, Rogán was scheduled to face his accuser in court today. However Juhász posted on his Facebook page that Portik was not scheduled to appear today, and Rogán is merely “fleeing from justice.”
“He fled because he knows that he cannot prevent me from proving that he conducted business with criminals!’
Rogán also told reporters that Saudi businessman Ghaith Pharaon, who is wanted by the FBI, was issued a visa to come to Hungary where the billionaire reportedly purchased a real estate across the street from the Prime Minister’s Budapest residence and conducts business with companies tied to the Prime Minister’s son-in-law.
Rogán admitted to lying to Népszabadság about his private use of a helicopter on October 2, the day of the migrant quota referendum, but said it was a personal conversation, and he could only be accused of lying had he not acknowledged the truth later in the day after being confronted with photographs of him and his family getting out of the helicopter and into a luxury, chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz.
He said he would only consider resigning if his work failed to yield results, but that since the government is popular, it had not occurred to him.