Police arrested four employees at the Department of Agriculture and Countryside Development (MVH) on Sunday and charged them attempting to steal HUF 400 million worth of EU agricultural subsidies. They are being held in preventative detention pending trial.
The arrests took place four days after last Wednesday’s announcement by Socialist MP Zoltán Gőgös that some 70 companies controlled by three interest groups had unlawfully applied for over HUF 1 billion in EU agricultural subsidies. According to Gőgös they were aided and abetted by MVH “insiders” with access to land registry information, digital maps, and data bases showing which owners had applied for subsidies and which had not. According to Gőgös the companies applied for subsidies mid-year after ground for which no application had been submitted, falsely claiming to be the owner or the party cultivating the ground.
In a press conference held later that day agricultural state secretary Gyula Budai announced that MVH had “been aware of the matter since February” and was “cooperating fully with the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office”. According to Budai a total of 24 companies applied for HUF 400 million worth of subsidies, but that none of the subsidies in question were paid out as the Ministry had already been warned.
Hungarian daily Blikk reports that a total of 27 companies applied for subsidies after 6,000 hectares, including one (Vasi Elektro-Ép Kft ) owned by a Fidesz member of the Sárvár City Council, József Baranyai and another (Baranyai Elektro-Top Kft.) run by Baranyai’s son.
In Hungary owners or cultivators of agricultural land may apply for subsidies averaging HUF 60,000 per hectares. The funds are paid out in two installments semi-annually.
The arrests took place shortly after revelations that hundreds of hectares of government owned ground had been awarded to companies owned by Fidesz politicians and their supporters without any public tender being organized.