Meet Balázs Kertész, the man who allegedly handles Antal Rogán's "corrupt payments" and so much more

November 22, 2016

Translation of index.hu article entitled “Introducing the dark side of Antal Rogán, the vanishing figure of Balázs Kertész.  The international development of the Rogán network in ten chapters” published on November 11th, 2016.

We have spent months investigating a secretive man, but the closer we got to him, the faster his traces disappeared, wherever they lay. Not only did it prove impossible to contact him, but his friends, colleagues and business partners made denials or cloaked themselves in silence. As we began to investigate, pictures disappeared from the internet, and a suspicious company was suddenly wound up. Luckily we were always a step ahead. We present the results of our investigation in ten chapters, supported by video, photographic and documentary evidence.

The chapters will deal with the following themes:

I. Although Rogán denied them to Index, we have video proof of his visits to number 3, Aulich utca [street]. Located here is the office of Dr Balázs Kertész, Rogán’s right hand man in District V [central Budapest]. It happened that they both entered the main door of the building within minutes of each other, then Árpád Habony entered third.

II.  Kertész could be the key to understanding Rogán’s affairs. Their alliance was forged in the days of of Fidelitas. After a detour in Óbuda and a couple of disputes with Tarlós, their conquest of District V began in 2002 with the future deputy mayor András Puskás completing a trio.

III. The names of Rogán and Kertész first appreared together in the K&H scandal. According to one deposition, Kertész “handles Antal Rogán’s affairs in connection with corrupt payments”.

IV. Kertész became Rogán’s financial right hand man behind the scenes in District V, a defining figure, perfecting the legal basis of a system for selling real estate.

V. Balázs Kertész’s company Monavis, founded with half a million in equity capital, came in a peculiar way to own an office worth HUF 150 million that had belonged some years earlier to the local council.

VI. After 2010, Kertész “cocooned himself” – he withdrew, details about him disappeared from the internet, and he became unreachable. But, one after another, the leads point to him: we also discovered that the rights to the commercial exploitation of an “invention” of Rogán’s went to Kertész’s wife.

VII. Kertész stands at the centre of the network of lawyers surrounding Rogán: from Kristóf Kosik to the District V notary, fellow students from Kertész’s law class at Pázmány [University] crop up in key positions.

VIII. Rogán brought on board a Russian affairs adviser who travelled to Kursk with his authorisation, but, once there, struck a deal for a firm jointly owned with Balázs Kertész. This would have involved money close to Rosatom, but the deal was called off in the wake of our inquiries.

IX. We also have a video showing that a former Georgian prime minister talked outside Kertész’s office about a power station project, where the name of Exim was also voiced. The Foreign Ministry also knows about a Georgian power station project, but asserts that Kertész has no relationship with Eximbank. The deputy director of the bank is the aforementioned András Puskás, the third member of the trio with Rogán and Kertész.

X. Rogán denied the meetings and any close connection with Kertész. Yet, an hour after we received our reply, the only photo showing the clearly recognisable Balázs Kertész among the guests at his ministerial inauguration was removed from Rogán’s official Facebook page.

I. Videos of non-existent meetings

At around 10 o’clock on 10 November 2015, on the elegant Aulich utca near Parliament, three men arrived just minutes apart at the main entrance of number 3. The men could have had no official business with each other: Antal Rogán, Árpád Habony, and a blond, bespectacled figure about whom both Fidesz and opposition politicians told the same story. He had his pictures taken down from the internet, he became impossible to contact, and practically ceased to exist in the outside world. Of course we did not believe this. Our sources consistently claimed that this almost unknown figure was the missing link to understanding Rogán’s affairs. He is none other than Dr. Balázs Kertész.

After this, we quickly realised that the legends could have some basis in truth. The story that we began to unpick took us from Óbuda and District V to Russia and Georgia. Going through scandals from the past we came across large-scale international transactions that were still in the planning stages. We present in our article the way in which the network of interests linked to Rogán was built up in the heart of Budapest and later went international, where the leads always converge on Rogán’s confidante, Balázs Kertész.

Antal Rogán showed up first at number 3, Aulich utca on that chilly November morning a year ago. A couple of weeks earlier he had moved from being leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group to head of the prime minister’s cabinet office. The dark-coloured ministerial minibus pulled in at about 09:50. Rogán made phone calls from the car while for some five minutes his men wandered in the street, waited at the main entrance, and scanned the passers-by. When the minister finally stepped out at 09:55, his minder made some terse remarks to bystanders while opening the door. The minister – tapping on his phone and wearing a blue body-warmer over his jacket against the cold – was clearly not disturbed by the fact that he was not alone on the street. He went into the doorway without even looking up from his mobile, with another helper following him, clutching some kind of papers in his hand.

Second to arrive, wearing a suit and carrying his coat on his arm, was former Fidesz representative, lawyer in the Kosik practice and owner-manager of Monavis Consulting Ltd, Balázs Kertész. He knew the entry code by heart, since here at number 3, Aulich utca, the offices of Monavis are situated on the third floor. The third to arrive, at 10:00 was none other than Árpád Habony, the prime minister’s unseen not-chief-advisor, who held a less ostentatious bag in his hand. It is not by chance that we are able to report this in such detail: we have it on video. The recording was made by a media professional using equipment designed for journalists.

The scene was not especially difficult to record. Aulich utca lies near Kossuth tér and Szabadság tér, and members of Hungary’s political and financial elite are seen daily in the area, which is in no way unusual. What is unusual, and what became news in the autumn of 2015, was that these three men would allegedly appear regularly at the doorway on Aulich utca. Recording the video was just a matter of waiting for the right moment.

The man who opened the door was an old colleague of Rogán’s, and they have appeared together in photographs taken in 2014 and May 2015. The man promptly tapped in the entry code from memory. There was no need for him to ring the bell or ask the boss, and he made no mistake: they entered routinely. Of course there is no way of knowing from a video recorded in the street whether they went to the same place inside the building. However, that Rogán should arrive at number 3, Aulich utca on 10 November last year and consistently avoid his old acquaintances, Kertész and Habony, who happened to turn up at the same time and place, strikes one as an extraordinary and unrealistic scenario. However, the response of the prime minister’s cabinet office – which we will present in detail at the end of this article – was to deny that any kind of meetings took place at all.

Yet we have evidence that the visit described just now was not a one off occasion. The following recording was made a few days earlier on 28 October 2015, a Wednesday. Rogán, briefcase in hand but this time with neither an entourage nor Habony, entered alone the building at number 3, Aulich utca where Kertész’s firm Monavis is to be found:

But what do Monavis and Kertész have to do with the government? We already knew at this point that Habony had no contract with the administration. It turned out from responses to separate inquiries we sent to the ministries that neither Kertész nor his company had contracts with any of the ministries either, nor did they ever, and that he had not been issued with a parliamentary pass.

We have spoken to many Fidesz and opposition politicians over recent months to work out who Balázs Kertész is, and what his connections to Rogán might be. Only opposition politicians would speak on the record; those from the governing party requested anonymity. One of the most frequently voiced comparisons in connection with the two men was with the relationship between Viktor Orbán and Lőrinc Mészáros, and Orbán and Lajos Simicska before 2014. More often than not, a mixture of the two.

II. The 1990s: from the Cuban Embassy to Tarlós

Balázs Kertész was born in downtown Budapest in 1972 and grew up there. Before 1989, his mother was a middle manager in a state enterprise, and his photographer father worked for a long time in a hospital. After 1989, he worked at the left-liberal newspaper Kurír, then in the 2000s at Népszava. A CV suitable for a Fidesz man and dating from 2006 described Kertész as someone whose “parents raised him in a Christian, conservative spirit”. A former schoolmate said “Keba” did nothing to draw attention to himself at the Szemere utca school. Of the distinct groups of “prole kids” and “noble kids” (the children of the bureaucratic elite in the Kádár era), Kertész belonged to the latter.

Kertész subsequently found himself at the Franciscan Gymnasium in Szentendre, where a close, cohesive group of friends developed among right-wing youngsters. One of the leading figures in this high school clique was András Gyürk, who established Fidelitas in 1996. Kertész was among those who followed him into the organisation, joining the board as a founding member, and taking part in political performances. For example in 1997, when the Fidelitas Anti-Dictatorship Action Group was still active, he read out a proclamation at a reception in the Cuban Embassy in Budapest. Kertész and his friends demanded the release of the Castro regime’s political prisoners and a boycott of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Cuba. “We dared to go to the embassy and say what we thought, then after the third speech we left the building,” Kertész would later tell a provincial newspaper.

According to party sources, it was here in Fidelitas that Kertész’s ties deepened with the group’s vice-president Antal Rogán, who was the same age, and a lasting alliance was forged, to be completed by András Puskás, four years their junior and later to become Rogán’s deputy as mayor of District  V.

According to the caption on an MTI [Hungarian news agency] photograph of a September 2006 campaign event, Rogan joined “Fidesz’s local activists at the start of voluntary work to tidy up the vandalised Szabadság tér”. Only the man next to Rogán was not an activist: it was Balázs Kertész. Photoh: Tamás Kovács
Kertész and Puskás first came to prominence in Óbuda, where Balázs Kertész had been Fidesz deputy president since 1994. They soon found a serious challenge waiting for them. Since the previous local Fidesz organisation had crossed over almost as one into the SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats), the local party needed to be rebuilt on Fidelitas foundations, which it ultimately was. Kertész found himself in the Fidesz campaign team at the time of the 1998 elections, and from that autumn became a local councillor. András Puskás became an external committee member (his brother Péter Puskás is now deputy mayor of District III). However, according to Fidesz sources, Kertész – who was active in the financial and public procurement committee – never really got on with the then mayor of Óbuda, István Tarlós.

“Balázs Kertész had a few confrontations with Tarlós, who cannot have very nice memories of them. He threw a fit when their legal practice turned up recently around Budapest’s public procurement company.”

– a Budapest Fidesz politician told Index, referring to a recent case where Tarlós (now Mayor of Budapest) banned Fővárosi Közbeszerzési Ltd from making a contract with the Kosik legal practice, which counts Kertész in its ranks. We have learned that Tarlós was greatly relieved when, in 2002, Rogán was recruiting people to help in his conquest of District V, Kertész chose to follow him along with Puskás.

III. Turn of the millennium: money laundering and the K&H affair

Kertész initially studied sociology from 1993 to 1995 at ELTE [university] then enrolled in the law faculty at the Pázmány Catholic University, where he got his law degree in 2000 at the age of 27. His coeval, the MSZP politician Gergely Bárándy remembered Kertész from classes and community life: despite being politically active, he was around, he showed up, he made friends. Kertész wrote his dissertation in the criminal law faculty, where his adviser was Varga Zoltán, later the judge in the Kulcsár case and the Mór murders. Kertész began to tackle the hot topic of the time: the title of his dissertation according a downloadable database (.xls) was “On money laundering”.

The young lawyer did not begin learning his trade in just any old legal practice: he did it in László Kelemen’s, who is referred to in reports from the time as a confidante of József Torgyán, and who was president of the Hungarian National Bank’s (MNB) supervisory board as a delegate of the Smallholders Party. In 1999 Kertész became an articled clerk in Kelemen’s practice, and in 2000 and 2001 he was already working as an influential mentor and legal adviser at the central bank.

Not much later, a corruption case blew up in 2003 where for the first time the names of Rogán and Kertész came up together: the K&H broker scandal. A parliamentary committee was established to investigate the case – which, of course, came to nothing – and the relevant parliamentary decree from 2003 lists Rogán, Kertész, and their later boss László Kelemen, among questions related to involvement in the case.

Extracts from the parliamentary decree:

27. Is there any basis to press reports according to which Antal Rogán, with the cooperation of the FIDESZ Hungarian Civic Union representative and District V local government FIDESZ councillor Balázs Kertész, was the beneficiary in certain of Attila Kulcsár’s financial transactions? What is the significance in terms of the given case of the fact that Balázs Kertész worked in the law practice of László Kelemen, and that László Kelemen, originally delegated by the Smallholders Party (FKgP) to the MNB’s supervisory board, was later on public record as one of the planners of FIDESZ financial operations?

28. If the reports related to Antal Rogán and Balázs Kertész are well-founded and such transactions really existed from July 2001, then what role did the London-registered IT Financials Ltd and the similarly London-registered Montrade Ltd play in them?
The embezzlement, which totalled 23 billion forints and caused 8 billion in damage, began during the first Orbán government, and although the hands of the Socialists appeared to be far dirtier, the right-wing was also up to its neck in it. The press reports about the involvement of Kertész and Rogán can be traced back to a statement that featured in the investigative material and was initially attributed to Kulcsár, but is now of uncertain provenance. The statement entitled “Financial system” was full of the names of left- and right-wing politicians. Regarding Kertész, it asserts that he was “Antal Rogán’s financial transactor”, specifically:

“he handles Antal Rogán’s affairs in connection with corrupt payments”

Financial system (Montrade–Britton–K&H Equities), extract:

Financial transactions that can be linked to FIDESZ: began in July 2001 at the request of Balázs Kertész (Antal Rogán’s financial transactor) currently a FIDESZ councillor in District V. He said he handles Antal Rogán’s affairs in connection with corrupt payments, and that the bulk of the money arrives from firms with an information services profile. My cooperation consisted of personally handing over in cash to Balázs Kertész HUF 10 million transferred from IT Financials Ltd (17 Sunderland Terrace First Floor, PO Box 31943 London W2 SYB, UK) to Montrade. I recommend looking into from what companies money arrived at IT Financials Ltd (money pathways).

After the scandal broke out Rogán asserted that he had only introduced the main protagonist in the broker case, Attila Kulcsár, to a group, while the broker later asserted that he only discussed local authority loans with the politician. Ultimately, however, as Átlátszó emphasised, “neither Kertész, nor the name of any other involved, politically-linked name” found its way into the prosecutor’s indictment. Several players in the broker case subsequently told Index that in their opinion the broker did not make any incriminating statements about the real big fish because it could have made things much worse.

Rogán and Kertész were never accused of anything, and in the end only László Kelemen was embroiled in the case. Indeed, Kulcsár stated that Kelemen was one of those who helped him cover up the case for a while after the spring of 2002 when K&H made a report to the police about

suspicious transactions that had been identified during internal monitoring. Kelemen became the eighth co-defendant in the case, but he was acquitted in the spring, again in the first instance, after a trial that lasted for over a decade (by a different judge, not Zoltán Varga).

IV. The 2000s: Fidelitas flies into District V

As mentioned in the mysterious deposition above, Balázs Kertész was up to this point a local councillor in District V.

“The mood was that Fidelitas had come here”

– a District V source said about Rogán’s people landing in the city centre in 2002. The arrival of Rogán’s people caused consternation among the mainly KDNP (Christian Democrat), old-school right-wing in the city centre. They speculated that Rogán would try to establish a political existence independent of Orbán. It seemed a good opportunity, with the District V right-wing weakened by internal conflict – they had just lost the post of mayor in the autumn because of it.

“They swarmed in as a triple alliance. You could see that they stuck together. And that it was mainly party connections that tied them to the old guard, personal ones much less so”

– the then SZDSZ district president and local councillor Tamás Ónody said of Rogán, Kertész and Puskás. He has since withdrawn from politics. Their unity is striking when leafing through the FIDESZ-linked Mai Belváros newspaper. In the council chamber, Rogán always sits besides Kertész, and next to him Puskás; they appear as a trio in most of the photographs. The local right-wingers are decades older: by 2004 Rogán’s people had dealt with one group of them, and struck a compromise with the rest. Their political partners saw their relationship with the Fidelitas clique as trustworthy and friendly, but asymmetrical. According to one of them:

“Rogán was the alpha-male, Kertész and Puskás were his pack”

Photo: Mai Belváros
Photo: Mai Belváros

“It was the end of the first era for FIDESZ, and the start of the second. The old guard still thought something about the world, but one could sense nothing behind the new ones but a rigid ideological vacuum”

– said Ónody, according to whom the new boys radiated an arrogant belief that “from now on, the world belongs to us”, though Kertész and Puskás simply “clung to Rogán’s legs”. After the local Fidesz operation had been stabilised, in 2005 they tore up a cooperation agreement with MSZP mayor Pál Steiner that had been in place right up to that point, and with the help of a minority representative they took over a majority on the council. Ultimately it was not this minor district putsch, but rather the 2006 siege of [the studio of Magyar] television that led to Steiner’s serious downfall. Rogán, who consciously exploited the tabloid media, won the election by 1,000 votes, then led the district right up to 2014.

He had two main helpers: “Puskás took on Rogán’s official affairs as a quasi policy officer. He was a well prepared, disciplined guy who often surprised us with his knowledge. Kertész, on the other hand, was not suited to politics, and he did not take part in the political battles. He could not speak well, he was aggressive and insulting.

“I saw decidedly political and friendly relations between Antal Rogán and Balázs Kertész, as well as András Puskás. Rogán supported them unequivocally to the end”

– Steiner said of the Fidelitas clique, stressing that he could only talk in connection with Kertész during his own time as mayor, and then only subjectively. Ónody had rather different impressions. He saw Kertész as better prepared professionally, but soon added that this might have been because Kertész, whom he described as a “passionless bureaucrat” hardly even spoke. By contrast, Puskás relished his role as “Rogán’s lieutenant, face and voice”. Puskás became the local caucus leader in 2004, and Rogán’s deputy mayor in 2006. He took part in the political deal making and poured out of the local media.

 

Cecilia Rogán, mayor Antal Rogán and deputy mayor András Puskás on Vértanuk tér at the District V commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising on 25 October 2006. Photo: Zsolt Szigetváry

By contrast, on the strength of reports in Mai Belváros. Kertész almost exclusively dealt with financial and real estate issues, and was given finance-related positions in the local government. After Rogán’s victory in 2006, Kertész gradually began to shun the public eye, and his name appeared less and less often in district news reports. Nevertheless, in addition to presiding over the council’s law and order committee, he sat on all the committees that were important from the point of view of money and real estate, and was in the directorship of the Belváros-Lipótváros Vagyonkezelő Zrt. [the district asset management company]. In 2010, when he gave up his position on the council and the conflict of interests ended, he finally became president of Vagyonkezelő’s board of directors.

As we reported last year in an article about real estate scandals in District V, the documents upon which the Rogán-controlled District V’s asset ownership and disposal committee ruled on property sales were initially compiled by Vagyonkezelő. Once the system was up and running, the task was handed over to the mayor’s office. Kertész has been the most stable person in Vagyonkezelő’s leadership for over two decades. The development of District V’s controversial real estate sales system can, according to several former councillors, be traced back to the time in the 1990s when Károly Karsai was mayor. But one right-wing District V politician put it like this:

“With the collaboration of Balázs Kertész, the system was perfected so that it would be impervious to legal attack”

We will demonstrate just what it means for a real estate case to be “impervious to legal attack” through the colourful story, supported by documents, of the acquisition of the property on Aulich utca.

V. A hundred-million forint apartment from a half-million forint firm

Kertész set up Monavis Consulting Kft in autumn 2010, originally registered at his own address. At the time Kertész had nothing to do with the 245-square metre, five-bedroom, third floor property at number 3, Aulich utca, it was among the district’s assets. According to the evaluation that can be found on the District V website, the property was worth 52 million forints in 2008. At the time it was not listed as an apartment, merely as “sundry premises”.

In October 2010, a month after Monavis was registered as a company, the “sundry premises” on Aulich utca were reclassified as a residential apartment. This would have had to be initiated by the Rogán-led local government. A real estate expert told Index: at this time, the value of the property could have doubled almost immediately. However, a year later, in November 2011, District V sold the flat for much less than the evaluation from 2008 for a different classification. A dentist named Dr. József Fürstner paid a total of 44 million forints for it. The estate agent we spoke to said market prices of 400-500,000 forints per square metre were typical in 2011, which would represent a market value of 100-120 million forints for such an apartment. The dentist got a great deal.

Cecilia Rogán, mayor Antal Rogán and deputy mayor András Puskás on Vértanuk tér at the District V commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising on 25 October 2006. Photo: Zsolt Szigetváry

Three months later, in February 2012, Monavis suddenly transferred its headquarters to Fürstner’s newly acquired apartment. Two years passed, then the dentist decided to transfer the 245-square metre apartment to Monavis. According to company court data, in February 2014, Fürstner valued the capital injection – that is, the apartment – at 50 million forints, through which a firm with registered capital of 500,000 forints became one with registered capital of 50.5 million forints. And here comes another strange thing: the dentist only acquired a 10% stake in the firm via the transfer. That means the apartment now belonged to Monavis, while the 90% owner of the company was Balázs Kertész.
Why Fürstner only asked for 10% in return for the transfer of an apartment with a value of at least 50 million forints, considering Monavis’s balance sheet, is not really comprehensible from an outsider’s perspective. In the previous two years – 2012 and 2013 – the firm produced pre-tax profits of 1.1 million and 3.7 million forints. But if the dentist was counting on some sort of miracle, and an enormous dividend, he must have been disappointed. In the following two years the firm did not take off: it made profits of 5.5 million in 2014 and 2.2 million in 2015.

Thus Kertész got a great deal: in a couple of years, by setting up a company with half a million forints – thanks to the local council’s intention to sell, the reclassification, and the transfer by the apparent easy mark Fürstner – he practically acquired the flat which occupies the whole of a third floor on Aulich utca. And what would it be worth today? We spoke to an estate agent who told us that just last year a 115-square metre, not very well bright apartment in need of total renovation. The sale price: 79 million forints. With prices in the area now around 600-700,000 forints per square metre, Monavis’s huge offices could fetch some 145-170 million on the open market.

Regardless of Kertész sitting on the leadership of the district’s asset management company in the course of the acquisition of the property, his company never had any formal connection with the local government in the transaction.

VI. The 2010s: Kertész cocoons himself and transforms

Since 2010, Balázs Kertész hardly, and preferably never shows himself at public events, and holds no political office. Outsiders cannot get in touch with him, he does not answer his email, and does not pick up the phone. Kertész not only became unreachable, but invisible, too. Sources independent of one another told Index that he used a 2014 European Court of Justice ruling, citing human rights, to have all photos in which he appears and “irrelevant” links to his former public positions removed from internet search engines. A right-wing politician put it like this:

“Kertész gradually cocooned himself”

The voluntary withdrawal of Rogán’s right hand man in District V is a totally bizarre development. He had nothing to fear, since his party rules not only over the city centre but, since 2010, the entire country. He was a Fidelitas member, and his District V boss, Antal Rogán, went straight to becoming one of the most powerful men in the governing party. Nevertheless, Kertész chose to go incognito, and the mystery is increased by the fact that everyone who has or ever had demonstrable or supposed vested interests is helping to protect the man’s incognito status. For example, the District V local government did not respond to our request, on two occasions, that they hand over the a photo and CV of Kertész that had earlier been posted online. Luckily, we were able to procure them with the internet archiving service Wayback Machine:

Balázs Kertész earlier photo and CV on the old DIstrict V home page from 2008. Photo: archive.org/web/

However it was in vain that Balázs Kertész had his photos removed from Google and other internet search engines: if we look hard we can find relatively recent pictures of him…only now they are on Facebook. One of the favourite haunts of the Rogán-Habony-Vajna circle is the Kempinski hotel on Erzsébet tér – Árpád Habony’s girlfriend even had a painting exhibition there. Searching the Facebook gallery of a Syrian jewellery shop in the hotel, we stumbled upon Balázs Kertész himself.

Photos from last year can be found in this album: Kertész wears a striped blue jacket and white-spotted blue tie while attending a dinner at the Swiss embassy and looks at watches with a price tag of 40-100 million forints. It is interesting that, according to the data contained in the June statutes of Opal Zrt, Balázs Kertész – who is a member of the supervisory board of the company – has an address in Switzerland, while Átlátszó recently linked him to the renovation of a Swiss-owned villa on Gellérthegy. Kertész’s representative denied to that publication that his client had anything to do with the reconstruction of the 100-million-forint property.

Photo: Marquise Watches & Jewelry

While it is possible to make lots of things disappear from the internet, with books it is more difficult. It appears that, a good ten years ago, Kertész was not preparing for a point in time where he would live his life so completely hidden from public view. A short CV features in the 2003 edition of Hübner’s Who is Who Hungary. Here we came across the name of his wife, too.

We will now tell you why that name is interesting. The now defunct Népszabadság revealed this summer that Rogán was the inventor of an electronic signature process, or more precisely he owned the patent rights along with two other men. This was because in February 2016 the rights were sold to a firm called MobilSign Kft whose owner was a certain Petra Pozsgay. Thus it is her company that exploits the invention, and officially the woman will be the beneficiary of the legal revenue that flows from the invention – whether from transactions on the market or with the state. MobilSign is headquartered, according to Népszabadság‘s report, at a property owned half by Kertész and half by Pozsgai, and moreover it served until April this year as Kertész’s permanent address, before the man became officially registered at the aforementioned Swiss address. It is not hard to guess after this lead in: according to the biography in the 2003 Who is Who, Petra Pozsgai is none other than Balázs Kertész’s wife.

Rogán and company’s IT invention thus effectively became a family business for Balázs Kertész.

It is perhaps insignificant compared to the family interweaving described above, but a lot can be learned about the relationship between Rogán and Kertész from the strange career of the latter’s father. The aforementioned photojournalist father worked for a decade from 2003 at Népszava, which has close links to the MSZP, then in 2013 and 2014 he found an astonishing new job: he crossed the lines to work as photographer to the Fidesz parliamentary group. How trusted a job this is perhaps needs no explanation. Nor need we add that the caucus leader at the time was Antal Rogán.
VII. At the centre of the network of lawyers around Rogán

According to data from the Chamber, after Kertész withdrew from politics he revived his career as a lawyer in 2011 at the place where he had begun decades earlier: the László Kelemen law practice, on whose behalf he also attended a conference in Peking in 2012. We asked Kelemen, Mészáros, Sándor and Partners Law Practice when and for how long Kertész worked at the firm, but to no avail: they refused to comment, citing the right to privacy.

Although we do not know why, Kertész left Kelemen and partners – probably around 2013 – and in place of the renowned practice that counts university professors among its staff, he chose a less well known one: the Kosik Law Practice. In October 2012, Antal Rogán tabled the parliamentary bill that would call into being the settlement bonds system: a multi-billion international business of which the Kosik Law Practice would become one of the beneficiaries. Figyelő uncovered the fact that “the bulk of the intermediaries responsible for this area work at the Kristóf Kosik law practice, which arranges the administrative affairs of applicants in the settlement programme vis-a-vis the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality. We have learnt that the fee for this could be as much as 5,000 euros.”

Kosik’s office quickly earned the epithet “Rogán-Habony-linked” in the press, but no one was able to say why it had been chosen to become part of the system. In an alumni database we came across the first demonstrable connection to date: Balázs Kertész and Kristóf Kosik were classmates: they both graduated as lawyers from Pázmány University in 2000.
Known connections between Kosik’s people and the Rogán network

Settlement bonds: Figyelő wrote that “the offshore firms distributing the settlement bonds tend to use the Kristóf Kosik law practice to handle the administrative affairs of applicants to the settlement programme”. Earlier, when the parliamentary economics committee simply took a firm named Euro-Asia Investment out of the bond business, its director told Magyar Nemzet that, despite having their own lawyer, they “had to” engage Kosik’s people to handle their bond deals.

Árpád Habony: Kristóf Kosik had earlier spoken as his legal prepresentative.

Habony media: Kristóf Kosik bought the 888.hu domain name for Habony, and either Kristóf Kosik or Barbara Kosik were the lawyers representing Ripost and Magyar Idők

Antal Rogán: according to information obtained by Index, Kristóf Kosik represented Antal Rogán as a “private individual” in a case against Gergely Karácsony.

Fidesz caucus: in autumn 2012, with Rogán as parliamentary group leader, it signed a legal advisory contract with the Kosik Law Practice

Prime minister’s cabinet office: after he was made a minister, the ministry also contracted with Kosik and company, in the first half of 2016.

District V: The ownership, disposal and housing committee of the formerly Rogán-led District V commissioned Kosik and company in 2015 to prepare an out-of-court settlement.

After our inquiries had led us to this point, we attempted to get in contact with Balázs Kertész himself. But when we phoned the central number for Kosik’s office – since Kertész officially still works for Kosik – the staff member who picked up responded to our surprise call by asserting that Kertész did not work there. Then in response to our incomprehension, and after clarifying with colleagues, the staff member admitted having been mistaken. It had been a misunderstanding, Kertész did work there, but the staff member had not met him yet.

Balázs Kertész reacted to neither the message we left with Kosik’s office, nor to letters sent to numerous email addresses, and we were unable to reach him by phone. So, having transcribed the above telephone conversation we approached Kristóf Kosik by email, asking him to clarify whether Balázs Kertész works for him or not. We still had many other questions, for example we asked Kosik if perhaps Kertész handled work and discussions for his practice at Aulich utca. We did not receive any kind of response.

Weeks later, on the telephone, Kosik was no more talkative: he said he had not responded because “we are a law practice” and “discretion is important to us”. When we asked how we could get in touch with Kertész given he had not responded to our requests for weeks, Kosik said: “clearly he does not want to respond”.

The Pázmány class of 2000 is everywhere

Also from Balázs Kertész’s class at Pázmány University is, for example, the Katalin Karafiát, about whom Hír TV has already written. Her law practice worked on company cases for the Rogán-led District V in 2010 (.pdf, p. 13) és 2013-ban (.pdf, p. 1), then – under Rogán’s successor – twice in 2015 (.pdf, p. 5. and .pdf, p. 4). When the prime ministerial cabinet office was set up under Rogán’s directorship, they also contracted Karafiát for public procurement consultancy work.

What is even more exciting, is that Karafiát’s people also handled the company papers for the firm owned by Antal Rogán’s “fellow inventors”, Hunguard Kft. We can add that Karafiát has since 2014 become the lawyer for Kertész’s own company, the same Monavis that owns the office on Aulich utca. In addition, Karafiát meanwhile became a member of the Budapest public procurement committee, which is interesting because the huge Fővárosi Közbeszerzési Kft [Budapest Public Procurement Ltd] set up within a public procurement framework of 300 billion forints would also have engaged Kosik’s law practice if it had not met with the wrath of István Tarlós.

As Monavis’s lawyer, Karafiát replaced none other than the likewise former Pázmány University classmate Ádám Békés. He handled Monavis’s company papers from 2010 to 2014, during which time his office regularly worked for Rogán’s District V.

Balázs Kertész’s fourth, far more illustrious classmate from Pázmány University is the same Zoltán Sélley who was managing director of District V’s Vagyonkezelő Kft, then in 2013 became the successor to the the district’s notary László Rónaszéki, who had been accused of corruption.

But Kristóf Kosik was not the only classmate of Kertész who later entered Rogán’s universe in one way or another. From Pázmány University’s alumni database it quickly became apparent that

institutions and players linked to Rogán on the surface frequently recruited people from among Balázs Kertész’s university classmates for important commissions.

Examples include the lawyers Katalin Karafiát and Ádám Békés, as well as Zoltán Sélley (see the section above). These former classmates all accepted commissions from institutions linked to Rogán such that after their university years they demonstrably came into working relationships with Balázs Kertész himself through their work as lawyers (with the exception of Sélley, who, in Vagyonkezelő, worked with Kertész in a company). But why make someone work with other lawyers when one is a lawyer oneself? According to sources acquainted with Kertész, he may have needed to collaborate in legal work with one-time classmates because, on the one hand, he himself had for a long time neglected the legal profession, while on the other, he only works with the most trustworthy people. Pál Steiner, who sat with Rogán’s confidante for four years in the District V local council and is a practising lawyer in his own right – recalled Kertész’s legal knowledge thus:

“Sometimes, when Balázs Kertész tried to speak on legal matters, it always came across unprofessionally”

However, Rogán and Kertész clearly valued good expert professionals. What is more, they sometimes both availed themselves of their help at the same time. One example of this is Rogán’s Russian affairs adviser, who while formally representing the politician at a foreign event, shortly afterwards helped Balázs Kertész to arrange a Russian transaction that raises numerous questions.

VIII. 2015: Rogán’s Russian affairs adviser and money close to Rosatom at Balázs Kertész’s firm

According to acquaintances, the Moscow graduate and, according to company data, half-Czech lawyer Marie Gera worked in the 2000s as Mol’s Russia lobbyist, but in 2013 she cropped up alongside Rogán. A source who has done a lot of business in Russia told us that, as a financial lobbyist, Gera was “small fry” and “in the Russian context, not a player”.  She may have found herself next to Rogan’s people – who saw the potential in Russia but were perfectly unacquainted with conditions there – for want of anyone better.

The ministerial cabinet office contracted Marie Gera for official communications (strategic) consultancy work from December 2015 to May 2016. In response to questions from Index, the cabinet office first asserted that Gera’s task was consisted entirely of monitoring the foreign, mainly Russian-language, press, and that she had done the same work between 2013 and 2015 for the Rogán-led Fidesz caucus. They wrote not a word about her consultancy work. Only after we confronted the ministry with the Russian sources who referred to her as a consultant, or chief consultant, to the Fidesz caucus and later directly to the Fidesz caucus leader, did they acknowledge the following:

“Besides the press monitoring work between 2013 and 2015 for the Fidesz caucus – carried out for the cabinet chief – Dr Marie Gera also conducted consultancy work under a monthly contract. We did not claim in our earlier response that Dr Marie Gera carried out exclusively press monitoring work (…). Dr Marie Gera’s task was exclusively to maintain contacts as per protocol with the United Russia Party (for example, the Kursk governor’s invitation) and researching points of cooperation at the party level (for example in the tourism, regional and administrative, sport, medicine, and regeneration fields etc.), she carried out these activities conscientiously for the Fidesz caucus.”

Although Gera responded to our first approach, did not want to comment once she understood what we wanted to talk to her about. We knew up to then that the woman had a business connection with Kertész, and we had in our possessiondocuments according to which, during the course of one of her trips to Russia, it was not only for Fidesz that she could have built up “points of cooperation”.
“On 6 February 2014, a Russian delegation took part in a working dinner in Budapest at the invitation of the director of the Zsigmondy Vilmos Harkány Rehabilitation Centre. “The director of the Rosatom state enterprise trade union Valerij Kuzmin and Dr Marie Gera, Russian affairs adviser to the governing Fidesz party’s parliamentary caucus, were received by minister Zoltán Balog and the director of the National Foreign Trade Office, János Berényi” – can be read on a summary that we found on the website of one of the largest trade unions at Rosatom, the state nuclear energy concern that controls the Russian Federation’s nuclear energy sector, and is playing a lead role in the expansion of Paks [nuclear power station].

The point of the deal brought together at the meeting was that the big men of Russia’s nuclear industry would come to relax at the very thermal spa hospital that had appointed Gera’s younger sister to handle the building of Russian contacts. The success of this meeting may immediately have set someone thinking. A few weeks later, in February 2014, the company United Medical Invest (UMC), specialising, according to company data, in medical tourism, was founded by Gera – with Balázs Kertész. A few days later a certain Zsolt Bauer joined the firm, too. Bauer had earlier had several joint ventures with the Fidesz representative Erik Bánki – one them (B&B Impex Kft) had been set up in 1994, so we are talking about old acquaintances. Bánki is another confidante of Rogán’s, as well as his successor as president of the parliamentary economics committee that also deals with the settlement bonds.

Acting as lawyer for the handling of UMC’s company papers was the same Imre Ebergényi who is currently deputy notary of District V.

In June 2015, according to an official Russian account, Marie Gera travelled again to Russia for another financial meeting in Kursk. “as chief adviser to the governing Hungarian ‘Fidesz’ party’s parliamentary caucus”. But Marie Gera, officially representing Rogán and the Fidesz caucus, also prepared a new deal for her and Kertész’s new joint company, for which the contract was finally signed on 22 December 2015. The essence of the business was that the Kursk region’s trade union association appointed UMC to arrange for union members and their families to holiday at the thermal spa hospital in Harkány for which Gera’s sister was the representative. While the local Rosatom trade union is far from being the most important in the Kursk region, one of the owners of the thermal spa hospital in Harkány is MVM Paksi Atomerőmű Kft.

Detail from the document on which Marie Gera’s signature can be seen. Click on the picture to see the whole contract.

Thus Gera – after going as Rogán’s chief adviser, that is, with political authorisation, to build connections in Kursk –  set up a seemingly quite profitable deal for a firm owned jointly with Rogán’s and Bánki’s people. Although,  given the representative of the Harkány thermal spa hospital, Gera’s sister, was also present at the conference according to a Russian account, it is strange that the spa ho

spital did not contract directly with the trade unions. Ultimately, the intermediation of UMC created

a channel through which money close to Rosatom could have been made to flow legally into Hungary such that one or other figure from Antal Rogán’s and Erik Bánki’s milieu would have skimmed off the profits.

According to the public company papers, the division of profits had been agreed: Gera gets 65%, Kertész 25% and Bauer 10%. Why Kertész and Bauer were needed for this Russian business which, in principle, the Gera sisters could have arranged for themselves, is again a mystery.

We contacted Marie Gera in mid-July and asked her about Antal Rogán and Balázs Kertész, while we we sent our questions in connection with Gera to the prime minister’s cabinet office a couple of weeks later at the start of August. According to a paper from the company court, Gera, Kertész and Bauer promptly initiated the winding up of their jointly-owned company on 16 August 2016. We strongly suspect that the sudden closure of the firm was directly connected to our investigation.

However, this Russian deal seems small change in comparison with the Georgian mega-project that a former prime minister and a former economy minister, among others, planned in Aulich utca, in front of the building housing Kertész’s office.

IX. 2016: Georgian ex-politicians talk percentages in front of Kertész’s office

A strange turn of events in June 2014 saw Rogán’s deputy mayor in District V, András Puskás, suddenly resign and become Eximbank’s deputy chief executive for business operations. At this time, Puskás had been a District V local politician for ten years, and everyone expected him sooner or later to be Rogán’s successor at the helm of the District. Although he also worked alongside Mihály Varga during the first Orbán government, Puskás had no professional background in banking, and his nomination would have been hard to support on professional grounds.

Speaking to Index anonymously, a high-ranking Fidesz politician well informed about the Eximbank case said that in the first half of 2014, Puskás had had to find a “less exposed” position in place of a District V increasingly noisy with scandal. The nomination was made during Tibor Navracsics’s short time as foreign minister, but by then it was his appointed successor, Szijjártó, who was proposing such personnel changes. But according to our sources, Szijjártó was just the go-between for a request from Rogán – one which allegedly carried the weight of Viktor Orbán’s assent. (Beyond his professional ties, Rogán is also András Puskás’s neighbour in Pasa Park.) We tried in vain to contact Puskás for this article: he did not respond to our mails.

Mayor Antal Rogán, the Fidesz causcus leader (third from left) and his wife Cecília Rogán-Gaál (second from left) and deputy mayor András Puskás (left) and notary Zoltán Sélley (fourth from left) at the District V commemoration on the 57th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1956 Uprising in front of the statue to former prime minister Imre Nagy on Vértanuk tere in the city centre. Photo: János Marjai / MTI

When we asked Szijjártó in August “how is it possible that this political-economic circle of interests, linked in the press to the name of Antal Rogán, worked its way into another ministry and its bank”, and what was Puskás doing at Eximbank, the minister did not respond, but nor did he defend Rogán’s people. For Puskás is not the only one. To give an example, Eximbank’s tied aid credits are overseen by the brother of András Tombor, Habony’s private creditor. Furthermore the bank has in recent years been one of the main sources of financing for the building of the Habony-Vajna media empire, providing financing, for example, for the acquisition of TV2.

Another video recording in our possession suggests large scale plans were afoot that, for some reason, the Rogán-Puskás-Kertész trio discussed right outside the latter’s office.

Shortly after 13:00 on 27 June 2016, three men emerged from a meeting at number 3, Aulich utca, and continued their business discussion in the open on the street. The first man was the Georgian-Israeli businessman Shabtai Michaeli, one of Habony’s settlement bond dealing acquaintances. Although Michaeli denies that he is behind the firm VolDan Investments Ltd, which distributes the bonds in the Russian and former Soviet region, he lost all his related court cases against the press, everyone from Heti Válasz to Index.

The second participant in the conversation was the Georgian banker Irakli Rekhviashvili, the Bank of Georgia’s Hungary-based regional representative and his country’s former economy minister. Aulich utca’s highest ranking visitor was not him, but Nikoloz (Nika) Gilauri, who was minister for energy affairs (2004-2007) then finance minister (2007-2009) during the reign of the Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili, and between 2009 and 2012 led the Georgian government as prime minister. He currently works as a consultant.

We were already astonished that influential Georgian political figures would head for discussions at number 3, Aulich utca rather than the foreign ministry building on Bem tér or Eximbank. Our astonishment only increased when we finally learned what they were talking about. The discussion was in Georgian, and, unfortunately, the noise meant that only parts, or sometime key words, could be understood. We showed the recording to several experts who spoke Georgian well or as their mother tongue, and with their help we prepared a Hungarian transcript – this can be seen in the separate box below.

“They have to pay their own” – English [from Hungarian] transcript of the Georgian-language video
(Gilauri): […] have to bring money […]
No, you don’t have to bring money […]
(Michaeli): Let’s assume that this is payment [for something], we have to pay 5%, but we don’t only do this, if it opens in Peking, there won’t only be money, but other things, too.
(Michaeli): We get him to understand. […]
(Michaeli): And when you go to Exim in Peking, don’t only ask for money, but guarantees, too.
Yes, exactly!
(Michaeli): I don’t care if they do this, do it like this. This is their position.
(Michaeli): I don’t know.
(Rekhviashvili) Nika, remember […] if there’s a 60-megawatt power station, you’ll also get your profit, they’ll get their profit, too.
(Michaeli): It’s got to be calculated, it’s got to be calculated.
(Gilauri): I think, I think, let me understand it, if I […]
(Rekhviashvili): This is the guarantee.
(Gilauri): Then my project will be different […]
(Michaeli): Exactly!
(Rekhviashvili): You’re really not taking any risks.
(Michaeli): Not only, that there’s no risk, but […]
(Rekhviashvili): Shabi [Michaeli’s nickname], you arrive on Thursday?
(Michaeli): Yes, but I could arrive on Wednesday, too.
(Rekhviashvili): I want to sign the contract with him [points]. Nika [Gilauri], wait a minute. [He asks Michaeli:] would we sign the contract with this guy?
(Michaeli): Of course, let them get to work!
(Rekhviashvili): They have to pay their own.
(Michaeli): Of course.
(Rekhviashvili): Let’s go! [In Russian, goodbyes.]

It is difficult to establish what part of the utterances refer to – for example, what kind of money must be brought to whom, or what 5% payment is being mentioned. But other parts are unambiguous, and refer to the Hungarians, and moreover, specifically to someone up there in one of the Aulich utca apartments. Towards the end of the conversation, when the former Georgian minister Rekhviashvili says “I want to sign the contract with him”, and asks Michaeli, “would we sign the contract with this guy?”, he points upwards at the building. From the context, it is clear that they can only mean another Hungarian player by saying

“let them get to work! They have to pay their own.”

Just as the reference to a 60-megawatt power station was also clearly distinguishable.
“Strengthening Hungarian-Georgian economic ties is in Hungary’s interests, and this aim is served by Eximbank opening a 68-million-dollar credit line, from which the cooperation of Hungarian and Georgian companies can be financed” – none other than Szijjártó announced this in the spring of 2016. Since the word Exim was voiced in the Georgian-language conversation on Aulich utca, we turned with our questions to the ministry of foreign affairs and trade (KKM), which oversees Eximbank, asking them to disclose whether they are perhaps aware of some kind of Georgian power station construction plans.

In its reply, the KKM acknowledged that it is aware of a power station project backed by a Georgian group: “EXIM – unsurprisingly in the case of a bank – receives large numbers of requests, in this case it is about a request in connection with an investment with high Hungarian added value. The project is currently in the preparatory phase. No concrete request for credit was filed, so EXIM was unable to examine in any meaningful way the actual financial viability of the project” – the ministry replied.

We presented our collected information in a background discussion with a KKM representative who dealt with economic diplomacy, who was incredulous. He said Georgia has no law on investor protection, and that is not all, because

“Hungary has important projects that have been delayed for two years, for example plans for a refrigeration plant have been halted because the Georgians are not prepared to give a bank guarantee.”

And without investor protection and a bank guarantee, it is impossible that Exim would extent any kind of credit. The KKM officially confirmed this. “It is true that the lack of a Georgian bank guarantee constitutes on obstacle in the case of certain projects. The creation of an investor protection agreement is in process, the Georgian state does not generally give guarantees” – it wrote.

Since the European Union monitors the functioning of Eximbank, it is technically unable to issue credit if the economic and legal conditions are not met. “Perhaps those Georgians discussed it over lunch and even drank a toast to it, but this does not mean the bank’s conditions cease to apply” – our conversation partner from the ministry said. “At the UN general assembly in New York the Georgian delegation sat near Hungary’s, but they did not come over and raise the subject of a power station construction project” – our source added.

Kertész is also involved in the storage of Hungary’s strategic oil reserves, but he has not been vetted.

As a lawyer, Balázs Kertész can readily deal with Russians, Georgians and, because of the settlement bonds, who knows who else. Since he is not a state government leader, in his case there is no need for national security clearance, and naturally his confidential connection with Antal Rogán is not sufficient justification for it.

Something else, however, almost is.

In 2010, as a delegate of the Ministry for National Development (NFM), Kertész entered,the supervisory committee (fb) of the Hungarian Hydrocarbon Stockpiling Association (MSZKSZ), whose task it is to store and organise storage of Hungary’s strategic oil and gas reserves. These are the security stocks that the Hungarian state can tap in the event of a serious disruption to supply.

Kertész does not sit alone on the MSZKSZ supervisory committee, also on the committee is Opal Zrt, which as both a member of MSZKSZ and owner carries out the actual storage. Opal Zrt allocates 70% of its crude oil stores, 40% in the case of oil products, to MSZKSZ aggregate storage capacity – in other words, it is one of the most important companies in the association. While one might think that protecting Hungary’s strategic oil reserves would be a matter of national security where the leading officials would have to undergo national security screening, this has not happened because of a strange legal loophole.

When we asked NFM whether MSZKSZ or the Opal Zrt supervisory board members had been vetted, we received the reply that this had not happened in one case. It did not happen at MSZKSZ because, although it would be necessary in the case of an “economic operator in state or majority state ownership”, the MSZKSZ is state owned but not an economic operator. It is classified as an “other entity” – “a special, specific legal person established by law”, as the association’s introduction puts it.

Since Opal Zrt is not directly owned by the state despite being an economic operator, but by the state-owned MSZKSZ, classified as an “other entity”, Kertész has not been vetted by the Constitution Protection Office in relation to the office he holds at either firm.

In the Aulich utca recording, Michaeli and Rekhviashvili both talk about some kind of guarantee. We do not know what kind of guarantee this might be, but a Georgian bank guarantee could, in principle, be most easily issued by the country’s largest bank, the Bank of Georgia, whose Central Europe regional director is Rekhviashvili, while the president of its management board is the brother of the third participant, Nika Gilauri.

Researching the Georgian company registry we came across a firm whose name clearly suggested the establishment of a Hungarian-Georgian investment. Hungarian Georgian Investments Co LLC, registered in autumn 2015, is 69% owned by Tomic Finance, one of Michaeli’s firms, and 18% by a woman whose name, according to official documents, is the same as that of Rekhviashvili’s mother. The company, however, has thus far not been granted a state permit for power station construction.

A day before the conversation that can be seen in the video recording, on 26 June, Rekhviashvili publicly shared a photo on his Facebook page, in which he is partying with Gilauri in a riverside location. Among those who commented on the picture was Revaz Arveladze, about whom one should note that he was the owner of a Georgian television channel during Saakashvili’s presidency. Arveladze does not only have friendly relations with Gilauri, but also appears to be well informed: in his comment, he refers to the party being for the launch of a power plant construction. However, when the Georgian journalist helping us with the investigation sent them our questions about the power plant construction, not only did we receive no answer, but the photo itself became inaccessible. Later we approached Gilauri separately, asking for an explanation of what they were talking about in Kertész’s office, and who exactly the lawyer was representing. We received no answer.

In other words, like Kertész, his ex-politician Aulich utca discussion partners did not want to talk to us, just as Michaeli did not react to the questions we sent to him via his lawyer. And the explanation would have interested us greatly, for example, of how it is possible that they so publicly celebrate the success of a new power plant project while Hungarian-Georgian projects officially prepared by the KKM have been blocked for years by Georgia’s not meeting the economic and legal conditions.

We would have asked Balázs Kertész what kind of “parallel economic diplomacy” went on in Aulich utca, and on whose authority.

According to the KKM’s assertion, “EXIM has no legal relationship with Dr Balázs Kertész or Monavis Consulting Kft, nor with the Kosik Law Practice”, nor with the ministry itself. So it is a mystery why Habony’s acquaintance, the settlement bond seller Shabtai Michaeli, took his Georgian ex-politician acquaintances to number 3, Aulich utca to discuss such a multi-million project, for which a bilateral state agreement and public money, and state financing would be needed. And, of course, what kind of contract did they have to sign “with this guy” up there in the apartment.

X. The grand finale: denial, silence and the disappearing photo

Unaware of the recordings that we had in our possession, Antal Rogán denied everything. Not only the supposed Aulich utca meeting, but his confidential relationship, and even friendship, with Balázs Kertész. In response to concrete questions, we received a terse reply from the prime minister’s cabinet office saying that all allegations were groundless, and they would sue if we were to put them in writing. For this reason, we requested a background discussion with the minister, to see if we could get more meaningful, convincing answers from him, and whether Rogán could convince us that there was no case to answer. The minister declined the opportunity, and in the two weeks from 7 September we got no response to out requests.

The questions we put to the cabinet office, and the response

“When did Balázs Kertész and Antal Rogán have a close working relationship, and do they currently have any regular working relationship? If yes, in what areas and on what affairs do Balázs Kertész and Antal Rogán work together?

Can you confirm that Balász Kertész and Antal Rogán enjoy friendly relations? (We also posed a question related to the wedding of one of them, the content of which was private and morally of no interest, so we are not communicating it – the editor.)

Have Balász Kertész and Antal Rogán ever had, or do they have, any shared business interests?

We know that Antal Rogán regularly met Balázs Kertész in the recent past, for example at the offices of Kertész’s company Monavis at number 3, Aulich utca. We know that Árpád Habony sometimes took part in these meetings. Did such meetings really take place, and, if yes, over what period of time and how frequently did they take place, and what issues were discussed?

In describing the connection between Antal Rogán and Balázs Kertész, do you consider the characterisations of Kertész as a “confidante”, “close colleague” and “right hand” to be excessive or untrue?

Did it ever happen that Antal Rogán and Balázs Kertész, whether in connection with the settlement bonds case or Eximbank finance, came to any form of agreement?”

We received the following response from the cabinet office in response to the above questions:

“Dr Balázs Kertész was a local council representative in District V between 2002 and 2010, while as a lawyer, he occupied the position of president of the Law and Order Committee. As erstwhile mayor of District V, Antal Rogán knew Dr Balázs Kertész just as he knew any other representative. All other allegations contained in the questions – including those of a private nature related to the wedding – are groundless, so in the event that these groundless allegations should be published – just as already on several recent occasions – we will take the necessary legal steps. Yours respectfully: The Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office”

Something else happened besides the written denial.

Antal Rogán accepted his letter of commission from the president of the republic János Áder on 20 October 2015, and the investiture celebrations involved only a very small circle. Photographs of the event suggest some 15 people were invited to the Sándor Palace. From among public figures, only Viktor Orbán and András Gyürk are recognisable in the photographs – and Balázs Kertész. He is the bespectacled man next to Gyürk in the picture, behind Orbán’s posterior, in the centre of the photograph:

On 20 October 2015, Rogán accepted his letter of commission from president of the republic János Áder. Balázs Kertész was present among the small number of guests at the celebration. He is the man in glasses in the centre of the picture. This picture was subsequently removed from Antal Rogán’s Facebook page.

We found this picture on Rogán’s official Facebook page in the album titled “At the start of a new task” [“Új feladat kezdetén]. This is the only official picture of the event in which Balázs Kertész’s head is not hidden, and thus easily noticeable. Almost a year later, when updating the Facebook album on 6 September 2016, it was precisely this photograph that was made inaccessible (it was originally accessible via this link).

We cannot know why the album had to be altered later, after such a long time. In any event, it is an interesting coincidence that on precisely that day, 6 September, at 14:41, we received the aforementioned reply from the cabinet office that denied any present connections between Rogán and Kertész. The album was modified a mere hour later, and 15:36, at which time the photograph featuring Kertész was removed. However, traces of the modification remained on Facebook:

The Facebook album titled “At the start of a new task” about Antal Rogán’s appointment, which was uploaded on 20 October 2015. The above date shows when the album was modified: on 6 September 2016. (Index blurred the pictures of Rogán’s children)

Later the web page administrator changed the settings of the album such that the date of the last modification is no longer visible.

After the disappearance of the photo, we asked the Office of the President of the Republic (KEH) what is the protocol at investiture ceremonies, and how the guests are selected. We wanted to know whether Kertész could have turned up at the palace without Rogán’s knowledge. The response of the office rules this out entirely: the appointee suggests the guests, and their number is decided by the demands of the appointee and the details of the given celebration, they wrote. Of course, it is also practically

impossible that Rogán would not have known with whom he would be celebrating the pinnacle of his career thus far, his appointment as a minister.

In the picture in which Rogán is talking to the János Áder, who holds a glass of sparkling wine, his loyal confidante, one of the quiet helpers in his political ascent, Balázs Kertész, is also standing there, hidden from view.

The newly appointed minister Antal Rogán in the Sándor Palace, talking to János Áder. In the centre, András Gyürk, hidden from view behind Rogán is Balázs Kertész. Photo: Antal Rogán’s official Facebook page

The article was written with the support of the Független Médiaközpont [Centre for Independent Journalism] investigative reporting award and within the framework of Transparency International Magyarország’s investigative reporting mentor programme.The Spark-Interfax system was used to collect Russian data, and Tazo Kupreishvili, the editor-in-chief of News.On.ge assisted in the Georgian investigation. The video for subtitled by Barna Szász. We would like to offer our special thanks to the producer of the video recordings.