Parliamentary speaker muzzles independent MP over residency bonds

August 1, 2017

Speaker of the National Assembly László Kövér forbade former Socialist now independent MP Márta Demeter from asking further questions about the government’s residency bond program, reports print daily Magyar Nemzet.

Demeter wanted to find out why three off-shore companies established in the British Virgin Islands over the course of a week then went on to reap billions of forints in profits in connection with the Hungarian residency bond program. Demeter also confronted Antal Rogán with the fact that one of the off-shore companies was founded one day before Rogán proposed the residency bond bill in his capacity as the chairman of the Economic Committee of the National Assembly.

Fidesz politicians and Speaker Kövér rejected Demeter’s questions on the grounds that Rogán, now Minister of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, currently lacked the authority, the residency bond program supposedly being beyond the government’s authority.

Based on Kövér’s statement, the program that provided residency for over 16,000 foreigners so far – mostly Chinese businessmen and their relatives required to undergo minimal vetting by national security authorities – has been operating without governmental supervision since 2013.

The three British Virgin Islands companies made a total profit of HUF 130 billion (USD 506 million) so far and could reach up to HUF 180 billion (USD 700 million) if all applicants receive a residency. The program has ties to both Rogán and unofficial advisor to Prime Minister Orbán Viktor, Árpád Habony. By remarkable coincidence, Kristóf Kosik, who acts as a lawyer both for Rogán and Habony, also serves as legal counsel to Arton Capital Hungary Kft., the residency bond distributor burgled in April.

The government’s controversial residency bond program was shut down as of March 31 amid growing pressure from opposition parties. However, later it turned out at a residency bond conference in Geneva, Switzerland, that the program had just been suspended, not terminated, and that members of the government are allegedly in regular contact with the three off-shore companies.

Despite multiple questions from Demeter and a final court ruling declaring that the Parliament’s Economic Committee must disclose data about the residency bond program to Magyar Nemzet, the government has yet to disclose all information regarding the program.