Mol CEO Zsolt Hernadi’s trial acquitting him of bribery charges was fixed according to a recording leaked on Monday
Liberal Polish weekly Wprost released an audio recording on Monday in which the chairman of Polish oil company PKN, Dariusz Jacek Krawiec, tells Polish treasury minister Wlodzimierz Karpinski and his deputy Zsidlaw Gawlik of an interesting conversation he had with Hungarian oil company Mol Zrt. CEO Zsolt Hernadi who, at that time, was the subject of an international arrest warrant having been indicted by Croatian prosecutors for paying a EUR 10 million bribe to former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader in 2009 in exchange for granting Mol the right to run Croatia’s national oil company, INA.
I went to Hernadi . . . and I told him “So tell me, how many years will you get for this?” To this he calmly said with a smile “Listen, my lawyers figured out that if a trial takes place in any EU member country and I am acquitted, then I can go anywhere in Europe freely”.
Hernadi was allegedly referring to a trumped-up criminal procedure intended to frustrate the efforts of Croatian prosecutors to bring him to justice. A criminal lawsuit was initiated against him in Hungary by Mol’s former head legal counsellor, Ilona Banhegyi, claiming Hernadi’s Croatian corruption matter had resulted in a significant decrease in the value of the company’s shares. However, the lawsuit could work to Hernadi’s advantage, in that if he is acquitted in Hungary Croat authorities will be prevented by EU law from investigating him further because they are required to accept the Hungarian judgement. As in the case of the Croatian authorities, Banhegyi reported Hernadi for bribery. According to EU law, only one judgement can be rendered in a given trial.
Ilona Banhegyi filed a complaint with the Central Investigation Main Prosecutor’s office in 2011 alleging damages caused by fraud as well as significant material harm arising from a felony. This the main prosecutor rejected a few days later on the grounds that the act in question was not a felony. After this Banhegyi filed a personal criminal lawsuit about which Hernadi spoke optimistically with Krawiec on the leaked recording.
You know, I told him, this could last two or three years. No, he says, the decision will be made in April. And Abel, his legal counselor, is sitting next to me (…). He turns to him and says, Abel, tell Jacek who will indict me in the Hungarian trial? To which Abel says: my wife. Now imagine this scenario. His wife is a prosecutor, he will be acquitted, and the problem is solved. Now can you imagine this in our case?
The legal counsellor referred to as Abel on the recording is none other than Abel Galacz. In addition to being Ilona Banhegyi’s husband, he is presently one of Mol’s directors who, in 2008, took over business development and later strategic direction as an advisor to the president.
However, Krawiec speaks imprecisely on the recording: Banhegyi was not the prosecutor in the trial but rather the plaintiff. Hungarian criminal law permits private individuals to initiate criminal lawsuits if the prosecutor does not want to conduct the trial. In such cases the one filing the complaint may conduct the prosecution, which is what took place in this case.
Although Hernadi had hoped for a judgement in April, he was only acquitted by the first-level court at the end of May. However, the plaintiff appealed the decision. In the event the verdict comes into force, it will afford the legal opportunity to formally request an end to the Croatian investigation.
Referenced in this article: