For the past two years Together (Együtt) politician and 5th District councilman Péter Juhász has accused former Budapest District 5 mayor and Fidesz parliamentary faction head Antal Rogán of corruption.
Rogán, who has been a Fidesz MP since 1998 and was District 5 mayor for eight years (2006-2014), has flatly rejected any claims that he ever engaged in any unlawful or corrupt activities. Rogán is now Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff in a ministerial capacity where his responsibilities appear to be to ensure that his neighbor’s company wins the lion’s share of state advertising contracts.
In his campaign against official corruption, Juhász has drawn the public’s attention to a series of questionable real estate transactions involving the sale of prime real estate owned by District 5 to individuals or business groups with ties to Fidesz at substantially below fair market value. More often than not, the real estate is resold within a year, if not months, for a huge profit. Juhász believes much of this profit finds its way back to certain government party officials.
Over the course of his investigation into such transactions, Juhász found that District 5 regularly sells district-owned property to individuals connected to known underworld figures.
During a separate trial, Tamás Portik, an underworld figure sentenced in 2004 to 11 years in prison for allegedly ordering the murder of a competitor in 1996, claimed he personally knew Rogán. If so, this might explain how a company run by Portik’s alleged girlfriend of many years came to lease and ultimately purchase a real estate from the District 5 government in 2015.
Juhász claimed that Rogán’s relationship with the known underworld figure (coupled with the 5th District’s shady transactions with these individuals) implies that Rogán did business with known criminals, and that from this it follows that Rogán himself is a criminal.
This prompted Rogán, who was subsequently elevated to Minister of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, to file a defamation lawsuit against Juhász. Juhász’s attorney, Tamás Fazekas, requested that the court allow Portik to testify in the defamation case. Rogán could not attend today’s court hearing due to urgent business outside the country. (He was one of a large number of government officials to attend Tuesday’s UEFA soccer match between Hungary and Austria in Bordeaux, France).
In his testimony to the court, Portik explained his relationship with Rogán.
According to 444.hu, Portik said he could not remember precisely when he first met Hungary’s “minister of propaganda”, but said it was sometime during the mid- to late 2000s. Portik said his “active life” at that time included attending various events and dinners, and he met Rogán at such an event.
Portik did remember meeting Rogán at the opening of Nobu, a restaurant in the 5th District owned by government film commissioner and casino (and now media) mogul Andy Vajna’s wife. Portik was invited to the opening but was asked by Vajna to enter through the back, away from the cameras out front.
Portik said he also ran into Rogán on the street once. It was then that Rogán told Portik about the car he had just bought for his wife Cecília.
Portik said he met a lady by the name of Marianne Pápa during a trial sometime in 2008-2009. Marianne Pápa is Árpád Habony‘s aunt.
In 2014, Pápa denied she had ever met Portik or had personal or business ties with the convicted felon, after her name popped up during one of Juhász’s investigations into shady District 5 real estate transactions. Rogán, too, denied ever having done any business with Portik, personally or through city hall.
But Portik’s version of the story is quite different. According to him, he first met Pápa during a trial where Pápa was called to testify as a witness. Portik, who had been in the audience, chatted with Pápa during the break. Portik said that as time passed, his relationship with Pápa developed , and he got to know her friends, relatives and business partners. He had gone to Pápa’s office and even listened in on some of her meetings.
Portik told the court that at one such meeting Pápa and Habony discussed how Rogán would see to it that they could buy properties from the district at a discount. One such property purchased by Pápa at a 30 percent discount was resold eight months later for a profit of HUF 52 million (USD 193,000).
The construct of this scheme was quite simple. Companies or individuals would lease flats, offices or workshops from the 5th District, thereby entitling them to a 30 percent discount should the district agree to sell to them.
In some instances, the district raised rents in order to drive existing tenants away, thereby enabling the district to assign the property to a third party, preferably one interested in purchasing the property at well below market price. According to 444.hu, this is where 30 percent discount came in.
According to Portik, Pápa and Habony regularly discussed these kinds of matters. Portik said he met Habony only on a few occasions, but decided to steer clear of him because he had well-known ties to the government.
Portik said Habony once called Pápa because he “needs the money”. Portik claims he delivered the money, HUF 10 million in euros, to Rogán in an office.
“It was late afternoon”
Portik recalled for the court that he told Rogán “Marianne sends the money”.
According to Portik, after the meeting Habony informed Pápa that the money had not been enough. Pápa responded by saying that “Tóni (Rogán) is quite expensive”.
Portik said Pápa was regularly giving Habony money. According to Portik, on one occasion Pápa told Portik that government security personnel take care of Habony.
Portik then told the court that he himself had done business with District 5. He said that in some cases, he and Pápa did business together with the district where it was known “that properties could be acquired well below the market value”.
Portik admitted that he himself had purchased properties, although he avoided giving details of these purchases in an attempt to steer clear of any self-incrimination.
“I’ll leave it to you imagine to figure how this worked,” Portik told the presiding judge.
When asked, Portik did not answer whether he had any direct or indirect connection to real estate purchases in the 5th District. Portik told the court that, while he and Pápa have no shared business interests, he did have money with Pápa and Pápa had money with him.