Metro 4 corruption investigation passed around like hot potato

January 27, 2017

The Prosecutor General’s Office has instructed the National Investigations Office (NNI) to begin investigations of contracts and investments surrounding the misuse of hundreds of millions of euros in EU funds for the construction of Budapest’s M4 subway line. The European anti-fraud office (OLAF) called for the return of HUF 76.6 billion (USD 264 million) earlier this month after it discovered that some HUF 167 billion (USD 576 million) was “stolen or fraudulently used” in the project.

Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s office after OLAF submitted its request for the funds to be returned. That office forwarded the complaint to the National Investigations Chief Prosecutor’s Office on January 23, which ordered an investigation that it then passed over to the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office. That office examined the relevant documents and then passed the investigation to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Department of the NNI, which must complete the investigation by March 23, with the possibility of extending the deadline.

The case has set off a political battle with the breadth of the political spectrum clamoring to place blame for the abuses on other parties. Fidesz Undersecretary Nándor Csepreghy told state news agency MTI that the report is an assessment of the Socialist governments of 2002-2010, and Lázár blamed the fraud on “earlier Socialist-liberal city government.” However, Hungarian MEP Jávor Benedek (Dialogue for Hungary) said Csepreghy’s statement belies the fact that at least half the funds in question went missing during the second Orbán government (2010-2014).