Budapest Court rejects damage claims by Norway Civil Fund regranting organizations

July 17, 2015

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Two Norway Civil Funds regranting organizations wrongly attacked by the Hungarian government last year are to receive no compensation for damages.  A Budapest court has rejected lawsuits filed by Kárpátok Foundation and the Democratic Rights Development Foundation against the Government Control Office (KEHI) for damages arising from the latter’s unlawful investigation which, among other things, resulted in their tax identification numbers being suspended.

In an attempt to pressure the government of Norway to suspend transfers to Hungarian NGOs after the former suspended payment of development funds to the government of Hungary, the latter wrongly accused three organizations responsible for awarding and monitoring Norway Civil Grant money to Hungarian NGOs of malfeasance.  It did so with the connivance of the pro-government press, including media outlets owned by Fidesz oligarch Lájos Simicska prior to his falling out with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Two of the three organizations responsible for regranting the Norway Civil Funds, the Kárpátok Foundation and the Democratic Rights Development Foundation, sued the Government Control Office for damages. Hungary’s state media reports that, according to KEHI, the Budapest Court has rejected their claims.

The government’s campaign against the regranting organizations began in April 2014 when Hungary accused the Kingdom of Norway of funding NGOs close to left/liberal political party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) and demanded transfers to Hungarian NGOs be suspended.  When Norway refused, the Office of the Prime Minister under János Lázár ordered the Government Control Office to carry out an investigation into the regranting organizations on the spurious grounds that all public funds distributed in Hungary fell under the purview of KEHI, even those supplied by foreign governments.   NGOs failing to cooperate fully with the illegal investigation had their Hungarian tax ID numbers suspended.

When Norway refused to back down, KEHI investigators and police raided the offices of the regranting organizations.  Widely condemned at the time as politically motivated, the raid was subsequently ruled unlawful by Hungarian courts.

Documents obtained during the unlawful raids were leaked to pro-government media, which misrepresented their findings in order to further discredit the organizations in question.

Index.hu reports that the Budapest Court for Government Procedure and Labor Issues has turned to the Constitutional Court to determine whether investigating the regranting organizations and recommending their tax ID numbers be suspended fell outside the purview of the Government Control Office.

Reference:

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/07/15/nem_kapnak_karteritest_a_norveg_alapos_szervezetek/