Prosecutors see nothing wrong with head of tax authority convincing a company to lower prices

December 7, 2017

Prosecutors see nothing wrong with head of tax authority convincing a company to lower prices 1
Photo: Facebook/Tállai András

In early November, Fidesz MP Miklós Tállai (pictured) announced that – after being contacted by his constituents in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county’s 7. electoral district – he spoke to MOL (a Hungarian gas and oil company) and convinced it to drop its petrol prices in the area.

“After being contacted by a citizen, I got to work on the petroleum prices in Mezőkövesd and the region,” Tállai wrote. “We held meetings with representatives of MOL and these are the results: compared to the prices on October 31st, the price of gasoline has dropped by 11 Ft and the price of diesel has dropped by 5 Ft. Furthermore, the equalization of prices will continue throughout the region.”

In addition to being a Fidesz MP, Tállai is

  • Deputy Minister of National Economy,
  • Undersecretary for Parliamentary and Taxation, and

When news of Tállai’s unorthodox price-dropping tactics became national news, independent media and opposition MPs had a field day.

“It can’t be possible that we live in a banana republic,” wrote Politics Can Be Different co-chair Bernadett Szél on Facebook. “I am filing a criminal complaint against Comrade Tállai, the Great Petroleum Price-Reducer, for abuse of office.”

In a nutshell, Szél’s criminal complaint was filed on the suspicion of abuse of power. She argued that Tállai, as government undersecretary and the head of the tax authority, has no authority “to hold meeting or apply pressure on any one particular corporation for the purpose of selectively influencing its pricing policy.

“What justification and tools are at the disposal of the head of the tax authority and a member of government which would convince an independent corporation to make a decision that runs counter to its own interests?” Szél wrote.

The opposition MP also pointed out that, as an MP representing the area where the petroleum price decrease occurred, Tállai had also unduly profited from the move by suggesting to his voters that he can accomplish anything — even if that means using his influence to force a company to lower its prices.

Tállai’s alleged crimes would come with prison time if convicted in a court of law. But for that to happen criminal charges would need to be filed.

According to prosecutors, Tállai committed no crime when he held meetings with MOL about its prices because he was not acting in his capacity as head of the tax authority or as undersecretary of the Ministry of National Economy — he was acting as an MP representing the interests of his electoral district.

In other words, prosecutors see nothing wrong with the head of the tax authority convincing a company to lower prices in the electoral district he represents.