Simicska’s media empire might absorb Index.hu

June 22, 2016

index

Daily online Index.hu, whose owner and publisher Zoltán Spéder is the target of a government campaign to discredit him, may be sold to another (former) Fidesz oligarch – media and construction mogul Lajos Simicska.

Népszava sources close to Simicska confirmed that the once Fidesz oligarch (who fell out with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a spectacular manner at the beginning of last year) has applied for ownership of Index, and has already secured an option for purchase. This would perhaps explain recent reorganization and reallocation of resources in Simicska’s media empire. He sold Hungary’s most popular radio station, Class FM in May, and earlier this month ceased publishing the heavily loss-making free daily Metropol.

Anyone but Habony

Simicska allegedly announced at a closed executive meeting recently that the Orbán-Habony pair should not be allowed to direct one of Hungary’s leading internet media companies, reports Simicska-owned  Magyar Nemzet. While he didn’t specify how he planned to prevent this from happening, the events of the past days paint a clear picture of who might own Index within the week.

Index.hu is currently owned by banker and media mogul Zoltán Spéder, who has recently come into the crosshairs of the government and is currently under investigation for fraud. A new development in the case against him emerged yesterday when Magyar Nemzet reported that several audio recordings were recovered from data storage devices during a National Bureau of Investigations search of his home.

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Simicska is set to buy Index.hu

The June 8 search, in addition to police raids of the Hungarian Postal Service and FHB (Spéder’s bank), came after Hungarian police began to suspect Spéder of involvement in fraud and other crimes. These are connected to circumstances surrounding the Hungarian Postal Service’s purchase of a 49 percent stake in FHB, the sale by the Hungarian Postal Service of part of its cash-in-transit business to FHB and Takarékbank, and the joint acquisition by the Hungarian Postal Service and FHB of Díjbeszedő group (an arrears collection and payment processing company).

Secret recordings

The recordings are reportedly of conversations between Spéder and leading Fidesz politicians including Orbán, Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár, and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Antal Rogán. When daily Népszava asked the Prime Minister’s Office about the recordings, they responded that they “wouldn’t like to comment on press stories.”

Magyar Nemzet asked the police communications service about the recordings. They neither confirmed nor denied the reports but said: “The case in is still under investigation, the details of which – outside of the previously released statement – the investigation authority does not wish to provide.”