Former Budapest mayor to appear before Economics Commission in Metro 4 corruption case

February 7, 2017

Former four-term Budapest mayor Gábor Demszky (1990-2010) has been called to appear before a government commission to investigate his possible involvement in the massive corruption case surrounding the construction of Budapest’s M4 metro line. Current mayor István Tarlós claims that city government under his own leadership was “completely uninvolved” since all but one of the contracts in question were arranged well in advance of the change in city leadership in 2010. In an interview on Lánchid Rádió, Tarlós called it “strange” that Demszky had hired a lawyer and suddenly proclaimed he had nothing to do with the scandal, even before anyone had accused him.

The European Union’s anti-corruption office (OLAF) issued a report in January which indicated that nearly half of funds spent on building the M4 subway were improperly spent, including some HUF 167 billion (USD 576 million) OLAF says was “stolen or fraudulently used.” Government officials expect that Hungary will have to pay back some HUF 60 billion (USD 203 million) to the EU, and Hungarian politicians have been scrambling to pin the blame for the momentous corruption case on members of opposing parties.

The Fidesz parliamentary faction requested that the case be examined by the Economics Commission of the Hungarian government, and requested the testimony of former prime ministers Péter Medgyessy, Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai, Demszky and his deputy mayor Csaba Horváth, and former Budapest assemblywoman Erzsébet Gy. Németh, all of whom except for Demszky were members of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). Demszky belonged to the Alliance of Free Democrats-Hungarian Liberal Party (SZDSZ). The commission’s investigation would occur in parallel with an investigation by the National Investigations Office already ongoing.

Economics Commission chairman Erik Bánki (Fidesz) said there is no way that these politicians were unaware of abuses which led to “the biggest corruption scandal of all time”, and that whoever doesn’t appear before the commission has something to hide.

“We are curious who participated in the corruption scandal, who directed it and where the money went,” Bánki said.

The Socialist politicians, for their part, deny involvement, arguing that their capacities as politicians had no influence on the awarding of contracts that resulted in the theft of EU funds. Demszky and Horváth have both pledged to attend the hearing, while Erzsébet Gy. Németh and Ferenc Gyurcsány have refused.

Demszky’s lawyer György Magyar insists that his client can have no legal responsibility because “investments in the M4 were the responsibility of [Budapest transit authority] BKV, [and] the companies signed the contracts, not the city government.” The lawyer also said there is a sharp distinction between political responsibility and civil or criminal responsibility.