Government secretly spent HUF 16.55 billion on potential Olympic site

January 12, 2017

Documents recently acquired via a freedom of information request show that the Hungarian government secretly spent HUF 16.55 billion (USD 57.3 million) in 2014 on a 15-hectare parcel of land in Budapest’s 9th district, reports Magyar Nemzet. The sale of the property, on which the government plans to build an athletic stadium if the city is to host the 2024 Summer Olympic games, was reported on earlier in the Hungarian press, but the price the government paid was kept secret.

The property, which sits on the Danube river just south of Rákoczi bridge in southern Pest, was purchased through the state-owned Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. (MNV). The site was previously owned by Duna Passage Kft., a subsidiary of the firm Wing Real Estate Development and Investment Zrt. In 2011, Duna Passage had planned to build one thousand apartments and a 130,000-square-meter office building on the property, an investment of HUF 100 billion (USD 347 million), but nothing came of the project.

Last February, 9th district assemblywoman Andrea Jancsó (LMP/Politics Can Be Different) submitted a public information request to MNV, requesting the release of all documents related to the contract between the government-owned company and Wing Zrt., but MNV refused, saying the information qualified as company secrets and wouldn’t be made public until 2039. Jancsó turned to a court to force MNV to release the documents, arguing that since the property had come into the exclusive ownership of the government, details of its purchase qualified as public information under the country’s Fundamental Law. In November, the Budapest Central Court sided with Jancsó and directed the MNV to furnish the documents, which Jancsó received this week, revealing the HUF 16.55 billion price tag.

The government, through MNV, didn’t buy the 15 hectares directly but rather purchased the property’s owner, Duna Passage Kft. Jancsó told Magyar Nemzet that since MNV essentially admitted it would use the property for a real estate development in the case that Budapest does not host the 2024 Olympics, she assumes the government will either develop the land using public money or sell it off to a developer favored by the government. This scenario would be similar to the Eximbank-financed sale of a majority stake in a large tract of land just across the river in southern Buda known as Kopaszi gát to a company owned by István Garancsi, a loyal Orbán ally.