Curia sides with prosecutor’s office in surveillance bug case

July 10, 2017

In February, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office closed its investigation into a surveillance device planted in the office of MTVA CEO Miklós Vaszily. (MTVA is the state-owned holding company that owns all Hungarian state media enterprises.)

The device was found accidentally one year earlier when there was a leak in the ceiling of the CEO’s office. When workers removed the ceiling panels, a microphone fell out.

As the story continued to evolve in the following months, it was reported that bugs were also found in the offices of other MTVA executives. Two of Vaszily’s deputies, Imre Vas and Csaba Enyedi, were then questioned in connection with the crime of unlawful information gathering. Both men later resigned from their positions.

Vas, the director of operations at MTVA, was found to be the only one who would have had access to the offices of his fellow executives.

When asked about the bugs, Vas acted confused and stated that surveillance bugs “serve a higher purpose.” According to 168 Óra, security camera footage showed the devices being planted, and Vas was identified in the footage.

According to Hungarian law, all MTVA assets receive a special “national security” protection designation, meaning the Constitutional Protection Office is responsible for ensuring the security of its buildings.

The Budapest Prosecutor’s Office eventually closed its investigation on grounds that the secret bugs planted on MTVA’s premises do not constitute a crime. They reasoned that unlawful information gathering can only occur in one’s private residence, not in an office.

The Curia, Hungary’s highest court, recently agreed with the prosecutor’s office’s legal reasoning that bugs can be placed in offices. The Curia’s decision is not actually tied directly to the MTVA bug scandal, but it rendered its decision in a separate and unrelated case.

A statement released by the prosecutor’s service Monday morning connects the Curia case with the MTVA scandal in a manner that suggests the Curia specifically assessed the MTVA case — which is not true. The Curia could only have rendered a decision on the MTVA scandal if prosecutors would have actually filed charges in lower court (which did not happen because investigation was closed before criminal charges were filed).