Politics Can Be Different (LMP) co-founder and former co-chair András Schiffer (pictured) has brought a suit against state-owned Eximbank, which continues to withhold information about a HUF 16 billion (USD 54.7 million) tender awarded to persons connected to Hungary’s propaganda minister Antal Rogán, HirTV reports.
The suit aims to compel Eximbank to reveal the names of those who won the tender, and the names of those Eximbank employees who selected the winning tender, information the bank continues to conceal.
“This is very exciting, because if we accept that identifying those persons authorized to make decisions in all cases like this would endanger the impartial, unbiased formation of decisions, then we can practically throw the whole freedom of information law into the garbage,” Schiffer said at a court hearing for his lawsuit against Eximbank. “Understanding information of public interest begins with knowing who made the decisions.”
Forbes Magazine revealed in March that Eximbank had awarded the tender for setting up two venture capital funds worth HUF 16 billion to GB & Partners, a firm managed by Ágoston Gubicza and Mihály Boris. Gubicza is the husband of Rogán’s first wife, with whom he is raising Rogán’s oldest son. Boris lives in the posh Pasa Park district of Budapest where Rogán also lives, along with deputy officer of corporate development at Eximbank András Puskás, Rogán’s former deputy mayor of Budapest’s fifth district.
Forbes also found the conditions of competition for the tender suspicious. The application deadline established by Eximbank was unusually short: firms had only six business days to compile and submit proposals. Other conditions and requirements of the tender led Forbes to conclude that it was written specifically for GB & Partners to win.
The revelations in the Forbes article have not been enough to get Eximbank to publicly acknowledge that GB & Partners won the tender. According to the bank’s lawyer, “It’s not about who made the decisions for the current tender, but rather about who the people are who will be authorized to make decisions in the case of fund management. We think it’s important that this information not be public, so that these funds can operate impartially,” he said.
Schiffer, however, sees it differently.
“We need it to be public so that we can check and see what kinds of opponents the winners had to compete against in that narrow three or four days in 2015,” he said. The next hearing in the lawsuit will be in February.
Eximbank, Hungary’s import-export bank, which is run on public funds, is technically supposed to be providing financing opportunities for Hungarian businesses trying to expand into the international market. But it has made several high-profile lending deals connected with government-friendly Hungarian oligarchs, including a EUR 21 million loan to media mogul Andy Vajna to buy TV2, and a USD 58 million loan to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s friend István Garancsi to acquire a large tract of riverfront property in south Buda where his company plans to build multi-family housing for 30,000-40,000 people, including Hungary’s tallest building.