Opposition MPs prevented from examining Elios tender-related documents

March 15, 2018

MSZP MP Tamás Harangozó | Photo: Facebook/Harangozó Tamás

Members of the opposition’s alternative committee of inquiry investigating the Elios case made an unsuccessful attempt to examine the application documents of the former company of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, at the Budapest office of the Ministry of National Development.

On Wednesday morning Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) MP Tamás Harangozó, Jobbik MP György Szilágyi, Politics Can Be Different (LMP) MP and co-chair Ákos Hadházy and Democratic Coalition (DK) MP László Varju appeared at the Budapest office of the ministry to meet Minister of National Development Miklós Seszták. A week earlier the alternative committee of inquiry sent a written notice to the ministry overseeing the public lighting tenders awarded to Elios Zrt. that the opposition MPs wanted to examine the tender documents concerning Elios. On Tuesday evening, Seszták informed the opposition MPs that the ministry would need a month to compile the requested documents.

Upon entering the ministry office, the opposition MPs were greeted by ministry press chief Anita Kiss who informed them that neither the minister nor his undersecretaries were available to meet them. Kiss also stressed that in a Tuesday evening email, the ministry had informed the opposition MPs that compilation of the requested documents was not yet ready and that the documents were stored at another location. Therefore, Kiss argued, the ministry considers the opposition MPs’ Wednesday appearance a simple election campaign event. Although this could not be seen during the visit which was broadcast live on MSZP’s Facebook page, Harangozó hinted during his conversation with Kiss that members of the police’s Rapid Response Unit who are tasked with guarding ministries and government facilities blocked the opposition MPs from entering deeper into the ministry building.

After the failed attempt to examine the requested documents, the opposition MPs held a brief press conference. Calling the heads of the ministry “cowardly bastards,” the Socialist MP stated the opposition MPs were interested in learning who ordered the ministry to modify the application rules three days before the application deadline, thereby paving the way for Elios Zrt. to commit fraud. Harangozó also stated that based on the ministry’s Tuesday email, it became apparent that, contrary to the government’s earlier claims, the cabinet learned of the irregularities concerning Elios as early as 2016. Namely, an inner ministry committee has been investigating the Elios documents since 2016.

György Szilágyi stated that a “government system leaning to dictatorship” has formed in Hungary and this was illustrated by the fact that government offices, ministries, and municipal councils were constantly obstructing the work of opposition MPs. Ákos Hadházy said that after a change of government there would be a better chance to punish those who are guilty, but for the time being the alternative committee would do everything to uncover the truth. László Varju stressed the importance of ousting Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt before prosecuting the guilty.

It was revealed in January that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had determined that Elios Zrt., owned at that time by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, may have engaged in organized crime in connection with public lighting modernization tenders won by the company between 2011 and 2015. In its non-binding report, OLAF recommended Hungary repay all EU development funds awarded to Tiborcz’s company  – HUF 13.1 billion (more than USD 51 million).