NBI raids Norwegian Civil Fund administrator Ökotárs over fraud allegations

September 8, 2014


Documents issued by Norwegian Civil Fund administrator Ökotárs at the end of August intended to refute government accusations of fiscal malfisceance appear to have fallen short of their goal.

National Investigation Bureau (NBI) officials raided the offices of Norwegian Civil Fund administrator Ökotárs Monday morning, seizing documents and reportedly copying the contents of computers and laptops.  It also searched the homes of employees who did not show up for work, as well as that of Ökotárs director Veronika Móra, whose laptop was reportedly confiscated.

Ökotárs employees arrived at work Monday morning to find themselves surrounded by detectives who forbade the u,se of phones for the duration of the house search which, 444.hu reported.  Before the arrival of the Ökotárs employees the NBI also searched another office in the building, although the NGO Foundation for the Development of Democratic Rights (DemNet) has no charges filed against it.

The Prime Minister’s Office began targeting the Ökotárs NGO in June, accusing it both of misuse of funds and making politically motivated decisions, claiming that the Norway Grants are Hungarian public funds.  The following month the Government Control Office (KEHI) raided Ökotárs and Norway Civil Grant recipients (despite having no jurisdiction). A draft report given over to the auditors at that time was obtained by pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, which immediately cited it as “proof” that embezzlement had taken place when, in fact, the report neither states nor implies anything of the sort.  In early August István Tényi, a Fidesz councillor for Budapest’s District V, filed a complaint with authorities in which he accused the NGO of embezzlement.  Recently, PMO spokesperson Nandor Csepreghy accused the beaguered NGO of violating banking laws for allegedly making “loans” to NGOs.

Hungary has been pressuring Norway and the other European Economic Area countries to suspend payments to Hungarian NGOs, including a number of human and legal rights organizations frequently critical of the government, after the latter formally suspended development grants to Hungary in April.  The donor countries have refused to do so and have criticized the Hungarian government for unlawfully cracking down on NGO grant recipients.

According to an official statement “the NBI is prosecuting an unknown suspect for fraud and misappropriation of funds. The authority is carrying out a raid on the basis of these allegations”. Activists quickly began to organize a protest against the raid, to be held outside the Ökotárs office on Szerb utca, District V.