Lázár targets Guy Verhofstadt and Curia judge

November 17, 2017

Lázár targets Guy Verhofstadt and Curia judge
Minister overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár | Photo: MTI/Lajos Soós

Minister overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár announced Thursday that some 1,235,000 Hungarians had responded to the government’s controversial Soros Plan national consultation. He also singled out for criticism a Hungarian judge and Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Lázár was responding to a recent tweet by Verhofstadt referring to the national consultation under way in Hungary as a “fake news campaign.” The tweet said:

Verhofstadt also called on the European People’s Party group, Fidesz’s European political family, to speak out against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Responding to Verhofstadt’s remarks, Lázár said: “George Soros has many employees and friends in Brussels, including Guy Verhofstadt.”

Lázár also had tough words for a judge

The minister was also asked at his press conference about a recent Curia decision requiring the state and sports clubs to publicly disclose what funds were received through the government’s controversial TAO program, and how they were used.

TAO is a scheme that allows Hungarian companies to make contributions to qualified sports clubs in lieu of paying part or all of their profit taxes. Since 2011, the government has tried to do just about everything to convince the public that TAO contributions do not constitute public funds.

It is estimated that more than HUF 330 billion (USD 1.23 billion) in public funds have been diverted from the state treasury to sports clubs under the TAO program since it began in 2011.

Anti-corruption watchdogs, such as Transparency International Hungary, have been fighting an uphill battle to compel the government to disclose more information on the program. There are concerns that there may be a connection between making TAO contributions and winning lucrative public procurement tenders.

The government has argued that TAO contributions do not constitute public funds and that disclosing details of these contributions would violate tax secrets. Needless to say, the Curia’s recent decision requiring transparency in the TAO scheme came as an affront to the government.

According to Lázár, the presiding Curia judge, András Baka, ruled the way he did because he is angry at Fidesz for removing him from his post as the president of the Hungarian Supreme Court in 2011. (Baka later took his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in his favor.)

Hvg.hu asked the Curia to respond to Lázár’s remarks. According to the Curia, cases are distributed to judges based on a scheduling system and a particular judge’s expertise in certain fields of the law.