“A normal power would defend democracy in this way, by bringing wrongdoing to light, and to exclude anyone who has become unworthy. If a member of parliament declares that he has saved more than 3 million a year, he must be suspended the following day, because he is lying – this cannot be done from an annual salary of 5 million. We didn’t take action because we thought that to do so would give ourselves a bad image. Meanwhile, from the oil-bleaching to corruption cases, both the socialists and Fidesz have given democracy a bad name. This is why it is now difficult to mobilise in defence of parliamentary democracy.”
“The web holding Fidesz together could break at any moment, and information could be made public. . . . Fidesz has enriched itself in various ways at different times, but I am convinced that its leaders never personally accepted money . . . Unless we clear up the past through an honest investigation, we’re just flailing around. . . . Hungarian society deserves to have everything investigated for once . . . it might turn out that we are only talking about a few hundred people, because of whom the reputation of democracy and politics has sunk so low.”
– Károly Tóth, former MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) MP and national security expert
András Pungor’s nterview with Károly Tóth appearing in print weekly 168 óra under the title “Has Orbán’s team imploded?” on April 27th, 2017, pp. 15-17
Károly Tóth : Fidesz can only be defeated in the past
There are weak points in the web that holds the ruling party together: you never know when someone might start talking, when Lajos Simicska will speak out, or a member of the oil mafia who is currently doing time in prison for somebody else – says Károly Tóth, once a prominent socialist member of the Hungarian parliament’s national security committee. He believes that interior minister Sándor Pintér is privy to many secrets, and that law enforcement in Hungary is selective. He argues that Fidesz has enriched itself in various ways at different times, but he is convinced that its leaders never personally accepted money. He suggests that if someone were to investigate possible links between mafia vendettas and bomb blasts in the 1990s, and the Fidesz party, they would find some connections.
You have said that the only people convicted in the oil affairs were secretaries, cleaning ladies and petrol pump attendants, all small fry. You said it would be good to find out who were Hungary’s J. D. Ewings. Well, this has now happened, and the big fish are also in prison. You should be happy that we have reached the finale of these affairs from the 1990s.
We’re not there yet. Anyone who follows the work of Sándor Pintér and the prosecution service run by Péter Polt will notice a common theme: law enforcement is selective. The authorities adopted this approach at the time of the oil-bleaching affair. One group would be eliminated by working in tacit collusion with another, then they would strike against its allies. Some people were able to maintain regular contact with police chiefs, while for others this was not permitted. To this day no one has found out why this situation developed. In the meantime, however, the practice became warped, and there were innocent people who could allow anything to happen to them. This is another type of selective law enforcement.
The events were investigated, though some court cases are still ongoing. Tamás Portik is doing time, and June will see a verdict in the case of György Tanyi. Is this all just a sham?
It’s not a sham. But the question is whether these people were the operatives or the ultimate beneficiaries. In the meantime, one of the key players, László Radnai, has become an active witness.
That is true, and he even testified in the Tanyi case.
Yes, but that is not important.
Why do you think the mafia cases are only now reaching the courts, 18 years after the crimes were committed? The police let many things go in the 1990s. Is one group now settling scores with another?
Not entirely. I have called this selective law enforcement.
Dietmar Clodo, notorious as a bomb maker, recently repeated to a German reporter his earlier allegation that Sándor Pintér and Viktor Orbán both received money from Semion Mogilevich, known in those days as the Russian mafia’s man in Hungary. The interior minister has described this suggestion as offensive. He also said that the man was captured largely under his leadership. Did the national security committee receive information about this alleged meeting and handover of money?
Not about money, but about a meeting, yes.
Pintér has denied he ever ran into Clodo.
Yet we had a video recording of it in our possession.
Was this a secret services recording?
No. We sometime received documents or recordings. We summoned the interior minister and asked him if he had met the man; he said he had not. After we showed him the recording, he said: ah, if that is Clodo, then yes, we met.
And what about the alleged bribe?
I also told a fellow member of parliament at the time not to suggest that Sándor Pintér had taken money from anyone.
The famous witness in the oil affair, Zsolt Nográdi, said the same.
And others too, and they lost the case. I have an unbelievably high opinion of Sándor Pintér…
Are you being ironic now?
Pintér is a policeman through and through, a professional and a businessman, and I never believed that he would chase after Zsolt Nográdi or Clodo for ten million forints. I don’t want to praise Pintér, merely point out that the charge against him is groundless. Just as you cannot take seriously the idea that Viktor Orbán got any money. Fidesz has enriched itself in various ways at different times, but I am convinced that its leaders never personally accepted money.
You have said of Pintér that “former colleagues keep helping him to very deliberately build a store of information and network, but that they are deeply divided as to how this knowledge should be used”.
If anyone knows who in Hungary benefited from the oil-bleaching affair (a massive tax-evasion scheme which involved selling diesel fuel as heating oil-tran.) or knows about the police force’s communist-era connections, what was happening during the series of bomb blasts in the 1990s, or what lies behind today’s financial crimes, that person is Sándor Pintér.
Do you consider it plausible that Róbert Jakubinyi, who also has secret service connections, tried to convince Tanyi to flee Hungary, and take documents that incriminate Sándor Pintér with him?
Have you spoken to secret service people?
This is a civilised secret service message. It says clients of Jakubinyi are well aware that Tanyi’s old connections are weak points in the web that holds the system of power together.
Many, including Ferenc Gyurcsány, are alleging that Viktor Orbán is vulnerable to blackmail, and that Putin’s Russia is indeed blackmailing him.
Unless we clear up the past through an honest investigation, we’re just flailing around.
Did you have any data on whether the Russians had information on Hungarian leaders that could be used to influence them?
I recall that you were also among those who were preoccupied with making secret service data public. Just look at the Germans, they were always saying they made their archives public. But the great powers – whether Americans, West Germans or Russians – selected the documents that were important to them and only left the remains for the public. Is this the good German example? Do they really believe the Russians left Hungary without taking any information with them? I even told the director general of the military security service, Géza Stefán, at the time: Géza, you’ll remain in office as long as you live. And so it was. You have to have the right information – that’s the secret to a long life.
This is all in code, so I’ll translate: you’re referring to Simicska’s allegation that Orbán was recruited while serving as a soldier.
Géza could only have known who was recruited, and what documents the service has.
You didn’t contradict it, then.
I certainly did. Géza could not have known what papers were in Russian hands. And if the Russians happen to know what lay behind the series of bombings in 1997? If they saw the certain groups in Hungary had started to get hungry, so what? Now we are trying to create a third bourgeoisie here. They tried to set up the first in the time of József Antall, mixing the old regime together with new politicians. Then Fidesz built a new stratum, with the help of the MSZP. And now, after 25 years, we are building the third bourgeoisie. This costs an awful lot of money. Is it unthinkable that the Russians possess the same information as the domestic prosecution service?
Were Fidesz politicians under surveillance during the socialist governments? Was there really an ‘OV and the Mustache’ (Orbán and Kövér) file? Were they able to get hold of Rahel Orbán’s phone number, as the government press writes?
The secret services cannot be so amateurish that they could be set directly on politicians or members of parliament. If this had happened, the national security committee would have had to be briefed.
And was it briefed?
Not while I was there. But it is nonetheless not impossible that they found something out about politicians, too, when contacting them in connection with one or other of their objectives. I’m not sure that they do not have any information about me, for similar reasons.
What’s brewing? Why are the government media parroting the story that pro-Gyurcsány secret service groups want to discredit members of the government abroad?
They have surmised that the web holding Fidesz together could break at any moment, and information could be made public. There is only one solution to this: they have to talk about a communist, liberal, pro-Gyurcsány conspiracy in the hope of softening the force of the blow. There are weak points in the web, and you never know when someone will start talking. When will Lajos Simicska speak out, or that member of the oil mafia who is currently doing time in prison for somebody else? The opposition parties still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that Fidesz can only be defeated in the past.
What do you mean by that?
They cannot be defeated until the opposition recognises the strand that holds this power together. It is not the present that binds together the party that is now in government, but its past. It is not a question of who is doing business, since economic circles have been gradually replaced. Fidesz realised after the 1994 election that you cannot win more than seven per cent through a young, truth-telling, principled and liberal brand of politics. This was when they decided that no holds were barred, and began a lightning quick financial consolidation in order to operate the party. Alongside this, in 1997, began the series of bombings that, while it caused no injuries, served to unsettle a peaceful society. Fidesz exploited this to great effect. And what happened? Instead of investigating, the Socialist prime minister Gyula Horn said this is anything but security. I believe Fidesz can be defeated if someone finally brings to light the true background and identifies the instigators of the bombings. I urged he MSZP government for years to do this. I don’t know why they didn’t.
Could there be a link between the mafia vendettas, the bombings and Fidesz?
I suggest that if someone were to carry out an in-depth investigation, they would find a connection. What is certain is that Fidesz found itself in a much stronger position after the bombings. I asked Sándor Pintér in parliament how Fidesz exploded into power. He was very angry with me. In my follow-up, I said he had misunderstood, and that I had only been talking about how in January they had stood at 7 to 8 per cent in the polls, and now they had won the election. What is that, if not an explosive change?
Clever. Why didn’t you launch an investigation when you were in power?
As I said, I urged my colleagues for years to do that. A normal power would defend democracy in this way, to bring wrongdoing to light, and to exclude anyone who has become unworthy. If a member of parliament declares that he has saved more than 3 million a year, he must be suspended the following day, because he is lying – this cannot be done from an annual salary of 5 million. We didn’t take action because we thought that to do so would give ourselves a bad image. Meanwhile, from the oil-bleaching to corruption cases, both the socialists and Fidesz have given democracy a bad name. This is why it is now difficult to mobilise in defence of parliamentary democracy.
What happens next? It all gets written off?
You could say that we – whatever you want to understood by that – maintain law and order. But of course we do nothing when in power, only wait for the dying out of the generation that still remembers the shady times. But there is another solution: Hungarian society deserves to have everything investigated for once. Show us the oil affairs, the E-credit (low-interest loans-tran.), the beneficiaries of the Fidesz and the socialist governments. Believe me, it might turn out that we are only talking about a few hundred people, because of whom the reputation of democracy and politics has sunk so low. Does the country not deserve such a sacrifice?
Sixty-six years old, trained as a mathematics and physics teacher.
The Békés County politician is a specialist in national security affairs, and sat for four terms as a socialist member of parliament. He was a member of an equal number of parliamentary committees of inquiry (into the oil-bleaching cases, the Együtt Egymásért Egy-másért Alapitvány [All for One and One for All Foundation], Brokergate, and the ‘secret agent’ affair). He was a member of the national security committee and became its deputy president.
He announced in 2008 that he would not run in the next election and planned to leave politics. He is now retired and keeps pigeons.