Hungarian National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) president Ildikó Vida reported US Chargé d’affaires André Goodfriend for defamation to Hungary’s Central Investigative Attorney General on Thursday. According to Vida’s legal representative, Barnabás Futó, she has also filed a civil lawsuit against Goodfriend at Budapest Court of Appeals for “breach of good repute.” Futó told reporters the basis for the lawsuit is an interview with Goodfriend appearing in weekly print Heti Válasz last week, in which the American envoy claimed that the US holds solid evidence of Vida’s complicity in corruption.
Vida’s actions are in response to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s announcement to parliament on Monday that she would be sacked if she failed to sue Goodfriend for defamation. Orbán later added that even though it is not possible to prosecute Goodfriend, who enjoys diplomatic immunity, “legislation should be amended accordingly” so that the American “will face justice before Hungarian judges.” Orbán called on the Chargé d’affaires to “act like a man” and not “hide behind diplomatic immunity.”
When news of Vida’s actions broke, Goodfriend was participating in a panel discussion about corruption at the Palace of Justice in Budapest. Government officials were in attendance. Hungary’s Minister of the Interior, Sándor Pintér, directed some heavily critical comments towards Goodfriend without saying his name. Pintér said that in his opinion “accusations of corruption” and “character assassination” are heavily damaging Fidesz’s efforts to fight corruption.
After the event, Goodfriend commented on the lawsuit and the criminal report against him to the Hungarian press. On the question whether he will be willing to face charges in Hungary, he answered that “anything is possible”.
The United States State Department announced in October that it has restricted entry to the US for six Hungarian state officials and businessmen for alleged participation in corruption. The basis of the entry ban was Presidential decree no. 7750 enacted in 2004 which allows for the US to restrict entry to foreign personnel with proven ties to “kleptocracy”. Orbán and other Fidesz officials have called on the US to provide Hungary with evidence of wrongdoing, claiming that in the absence of such evidence it is not possible to open an investigation. Goodfriend has stated on multiple occasions that the Hungarian government already possesses all the evidence necessary to determine the causes of the State Department’s action.
Referenced in this article: