Orbán: National sovereignty dictates banned NAV head retain post

November 15, 2014


In his regular Friday morning radio interview Prime Minister Viktor Orbán responded to last weekend’s demonstrations calling for the resignation of NAV president Ildikó Vida and three other high-ranking tax officials banned from entering the United States on suspicion of corruption.  Orbán said the evidence the US had provided so far to support its charges are “no more than a few sheets of paper” and that “every minute we seriously consider these charges is a minute wasted.”

Orbán was referring to a paper published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday evening. It contains an information package received from the embassy of the United States and an accompanying letter explaining the circumstances of receiving it. State secretary Levente Magyar repeated the official position of the Hungarian government, that US diplomacy has “failed to produce substantial evidence concerning the background of the entry refusal orders.”

“If it wasn’t written in English I would think that the Hungarian opposition wrote it,” said Orbán. “The text lists the opposition’s accusations from the last four years.”

He said “if any Hungarian ambassador were to deliver such a paper to a government, I would have to order him home the next day”, referring to the fact that the two-page document was not printed on official letterhead and bore neither a signature nor an official stamp. “I would like to think of the US as an ally, and would never dare presume that they are simply promoting their economic interests with a defamation campaign like this.”

On the subject of beleaguered NAV president Ildikó Vida, Orbán said she “may submit her resignation but I would have to give strong consideration to whether or not to accept it, because it would not be a good precedent to replace a high-ranking Hungarian official on the basis of charges brought by a foreign country.”

Calling it a question of “national sovereignty” Orbán said those who “interfere with the operations of the Hungarian tax authority endanger the functioning of the state because this can obstruct the collection of state revenues.”

The short US document filed with the Hungarians describes certain domestic government activities that the Americans expressed concern about in the last few months. A timeline gives an account of multiple meetings between representatives of the US State Department with Hungarian tax officials, law enforcement stakeholders and the Hungarian Justice Ministry in connection with two major groups of issues. The document reveals that American diplomats were mostly responding to complaints from US multinational companies who reported widespread corruption within the Hungarian Tax Authority. A further enquiry has been made to the Hungarians about the VAT fraud scheme alleged by András Horváth, a former special cases inspector.  The Americans also raised the issue of the questionable tobacco shop franchise scheme the Fidesz-government introduced at the end of 2013.

The summary makes it clear that US officials have been holding discussions with high-level Hungarian officials on these issues since October 2013.  The Hungarian Foreign Ministry commented on the summary in an accompanying letter, saying a criminal investigation has been initiated in connection with “some of the problems raised here.”

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