According to Hungarian news site Index.hu, Hungary’s honorary consul in Bahrain, Balázs Garamvölgyi, is tied to Hungary’s controversial residency bond program.
Garamvölgyi came to public attention last week when news site 444.hu discovered a 2015 Bahrain ministry of energy press release according to which a discussion took place with the “wife” of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán regarding energy cooperation between the two countries. The photograph posted along with the statement was of Viktor Orbán’s daughter, Rahel, and her husband, István Tiborcz. Also featured in the picture was Hungary’s honory consul in Bahrain, Balázs Garamvölgyi, who claims to have no recollection of what was discussed at the meeting because it “took place last September.”
Garamvölgyi and residency bond program
According to Index, Garamvölgyi actually registered the domain name for the European Bond Program, a website tasked with referring potential clients to one of a handful of mostly offshore companies selected to broker the sale of Hungarian residency bonds.
In May, Garamvölgyi wrote a piece for African Business magazine (pg. 64) in which he touts the Hungarian residency program as being more advantageous than similar programs offered by other EU member states. On page 13 of the magazine, readers will find a full-page European Bond Program advertisement offering a “four weeks fast track program” for “visa-free access to the Schengen Zone of EU.”
Eubond’s contact information corresponds exactly to that of one of the residency bond brokerages – Arton Capital Hungary – hand-picked by now-Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office Antal Rogán to engage in the lucrative business on a semi-exclusive basis.
Garamvölgyi told Index he only registered the domain and has no interest in any company tied to the residency bond program. According to him, Eubond.org is simply a website that advertises the residency, not a company.
When asked whether he often buys domain names for other businesses, he told Index that this is the only time he has done so.
According to Garamvölgyi, Arton Capital asked him to help them with work and generate potential clients wishing to establish residence in Hungary, and it was for this reason that he registered Eubond.org.
Index reports that Garamvölgyi could not give a straight answer as to whether he was the one who placed the advertisement and promoted content in the African magazine. The honorary consul did not deny that he receives some kind of commission from Arton Capital for successful referrals.
An Arton Capital executive could not give Index much information about the company’s relationship with Garamvölgyi’s Eubond.org.
“We asked the honorary consul to help popularize the company,” said Arton Capital’s Radostina Balogh.
According to Balogh, Arton Capital does not make any payments to Garamvölgyi’s Eubond.org — so, any expenses incurred by Garamvölgyi come out of his own pocket, and the only money he makes is in the form of commissions.
Balogh told Index that she sees nothing wrong with the fact that Garamvölgyi is popularizing the service both as a representative of Hungary and as a representative of the Eubond.org (for which he earns money when he makes successful referrals).
Balogh also told Index that a conflict of interest could only arise if Garamvölgyi was a paid employee of the embassy, but that is not the case because he is only an honorary consul.
Garamvölgyi gets love from both sides
According to Index, it is only in recent years that Garamvölgyi strengthened his ties to the Fidesz business machine. Even Eubond.org was only registered this last April.
Earlier, Hungary’s honorary consul in Bahrain had closer ties to the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). His appointment to the post of honorary consul came during the previous Socialist government, although it has been reported that he started using the title in Bahrain well before receiving the official appointment. According to his own website, he has served as honorary consul in Bahrain since 2007, but his official appointment actually came one year later.
According to Index, Garamvölgyi chalks this discrepancy up to a type-o.
In 2007, he acted as a guide when former Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy visited Bahrain.
One source told Index that Garamvölgyi also has ties to the Socialists’ 2010 election campaign. According to this source, Garamvölgyi was spotted with then-Socialist leader Attila Mesterházy’s campaign staff several times during the election campaign.
“I had no position in the campaign,” Garamvölgyi told Index when asked about this connection.
When confronted with the allegation that he was actually connected to the campaign as an outside helper, Garamvölgyi responded by saying that he “met Mesterházy on Christmas in 2010, during an event, but [he doesn’t] remember what kind of event that was.”