The police were interested in the prostitute. Not in her politician client

Forrás: Direkt36 - Németh Gyula

The Hungarian Parliament’s session lasted until 6 in the morning on 15th June in 2011, but there was one MP who surely skipped 1.5 hours of the early morning meeting.

During that time, he was having sex with a prostitute in a hotel, just a 10-minute walk from the Parliament. He paid almost 160 000 forints for the sex (600 euros at the current exchange rate). However, the next morning he was already complaining to his friend who had arranged the woman for him. The politician did not like the prostitute, and he got angry because she asked extra fee for their second intercourse after the first one ended too quickly.

These details are revealed in the 2500-page-long files of an investigation that looked into one of the biggest alleged prostitution networks of Hungary. The main character in the activities described in the files, obtained by Direkt36, is Lajos Répás, organizer of beauty contests, who is now accused in court of procuring prostitution. Although Répás denies committing any crime, he does admit that he introduced models, porn stars and beauty pageant contestants to his rich, influential friends. Among them, there were some politicians too.

We do not know the names of these politicians, as the files do not contain them and no other evidence could be found of their identities. The police did not appear to make any effort to identify them either.

Even though they were very interested in the identity of other clients (they conducted a thorough investigation, showed pictures of the alleged clients to the sex-workers in order to identify them, and even interrogated the clients), the politicians’ names were not mentioned at all in the documents. The investigation files did not name them in spite of the fact that on one occasion a group of politicians ordered a group of prostitutes that also included an underage girl. In the end the encounter did not take place because of a misunderstanding of dates.

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The records of the tapped phone calls and the witnesses’ testimonies provide a detailed description of the way these meetings were organized. The National Bureau of Investigation (NNI) tapped the phone calls of Lajos Répás for half a year in 2011, but the records do not show any attempts of the politicians to get into direct contact with him. The dissatisfied MP who was mentioned in the introduction ordered one of Répás’ women with the help of a friend, József Gerendás.

Gerendás was himself a politician when he served as a member of the local council in the central 5th district of Budapest between 1994 and 2010. Although he was always elected as the candidate of his own association, he built good relationships both with the socialists and the right-wing Fidesz. During the 2006 elections he was even put on the national electoral list of Fidesz. In his CV uploaded to the electoral website he introduced himself as “having grown up in a civic family”.

We contacted Lajos Répás, József Gerendás and the women involved and asked them which politicians had sex with prostitutes, but they refused to comment on the case. We asked the NNI about the identity of the politicians and whether they have tried to identify them, but they refused to answer our questions arguing that they are not authorized to give any comments on a case which is already in court. We also contacted the Metropolitan Court that would be authorized to comment on the case, but they did not provide any response.

“I only helped the girls”

Lajos Répás, owner of the Miss Model Agency Ltd. has been organizing Miss Hungary, the oldest national beauty contest, since 1998. The NNI started to tap his phone in April 2011, as they suspected that Répás might be involved in the work of a prostitution network that procured Hungarian women for foreigners, in many cases in Dubai. During the secret phone tapping, however, the police began to suspect the he is operating his own prostitution ring.

Répás’ case was separated from the Dubai-network investigation, and the police continued the investigation against him until February 2014. In August 2014, the Prosecutor’s Office charged him with regularly providing women for sex work between 2007 and 2012. The women had to give 20-30 percent of their payment to Répás. The indictment identifies 67 women and 5 underage girls who were provided for sex by Répás, some of them only a couple of times, others several times per month for years.

Répás thinks that his activities did not coincide with the legal definition of procuring prostitutes. “I only helped the girls, I introduced them to my influential friends. Anything that happened after this is a private business, the autonomous decision of two people. The girls paid for my help as a sign of their gratitude. However, I did not use this money to increase my wealth, but reinvested it into the organization of the beauty contests” – said Répás to Direkt36.

Répás’ trial has been going on for more than a year, and, due to high number of witnesses, it might last for several more years. The trial drew the attention of the tabloid press as several Hungarian models and porn stars, who could hold information about the alleged network’s activities, were summoned as witnesses. Tímea Palácsik (now called Tímea Vajna, wife of Government Commissioner Andy Vajna) gave a testimony to the police, while other well-known women were summoned to court, such as Dóra Török and Éva Baukó from reality show Való Világ, Szandra Ökrös from Hotel Eden TV-show, model and DJ Lia Kustánczi and playmate Bernadett Bátki.

The only client whose name was made public is Tamás Welsz, a well-known businessman who died in 2014. At the beginning of the lawsuit, he was suspected of having sex with an underage prostitute. Welsz, however, was not the only well-known man who ordered girls from Répás. The investigation files contain the names of several businessmen, football players, TV-stars and an internationally known singer as well. We do not publish their names as, according to the Hungarian law, visiting prostitutes is not illegal, and we did not find the interest of the public big enough to infringe their right to privacy by publishing their names.

The “politician dudes” already paid

The case of politicians could be different as many of them campaign with preaching moral values and their exemplary family life but their names are not revealed by the investigation files. The documents – records of tapped phone calls and witness testimonies – describe in detail two occasions when politicians ordered or had sex with prostitutes.

On one occasion, a group of politicians ordered a group of prostitutes. In the end, the encounter did not take place, but it was only due to a misunderstanding. The group included an underage girl who said in her testimony that the scheduled dates were somehow mixed up, and she and the two other girls went to the agreed venue one day before the politicians showed up. Without this mistake the politicians could have got close to committing a crime, as sex with an underage prostitute is against the law. It is not known from the documents whether the politicians knew that the group included a girl under 18.

The underage prostitute said in her testimony that they agreed to meet the politicians in a hotel in Budapest. “We were told that there were some politicians coming, and three girls were supposed to be with them. But the politicians mixed up the dates, and they came on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. I could not go on Wednesday, so someone else was sent instead of me” – said the girl in her testimony, adding that this job was not organized by Répás but by another girl, who “received the money from the politician dudes already before the encounter.” The girl did not say what positions the politicians held and whether they were members of the Parliament or some other lower level of government. Judging from the investigation files, the police did not try to find out who these politicians were.

Tamás Welsz, the businessman client, became a suspect because he had sex with the same underage girl who almost had an encounter with the politicians. Welsz testified that he only realized that the girl was under 18 when he got her to fill out some forms that the girl would need for working in Africa, his area of business. However, the girl stated that they also had sex after Welsz had learnt about her young age. Because of the conflicting statements, they were confronted by the police in 2013. Then the girl said that she had “mixed up” Welsz with somebody else and they indeed only had sex once, before the African papers had revealed her age. As a result, the procedure against Welsz was cancelled in the beginning of 2014.

A “very average” politician

The other case in which a politician was involved is the one that took place in the hotel close to the Parliament in the early hours of 15th of June, 2011. József Gerendás, then the hotel’s owner and friend of the politician, described in detail how they organized the night: “I was having drinks with my politician friend (…) and I showed him the pictures of the girls who are connected to Répás. I told him that I had already ordered girls for myself this way several times. My friend was spending the night in my hotel, in Hotel President, and he decided that he did not want to spend the night all alone. He chose a girl and asked me to arrange that this girl come to visit him. I called Répás, and asked him to send me that girl.”

To his clients, Répás showed the pictures of the girls who are available for sex work in his model agency’s catalogue, or even sent photos of the girls with numerical codes and first names to the potential clients vie e-mail. As soon as the costumer decided which woman to take, Répás called or texted the girl. He sent short messages: “Work 8h, 100 000 (70 000)/2h?” This meant that the prostitute would receive 100 000 forints (nearly 320 euros) for a 2-hour-long work that starts at 8, and she would receive 70 000 (about 220 euros), while the rest goes to Répás as his “tax” or fee. The witness testimonies reveal that it was obvious that the word “work” meant sex – if the client only wanted an escort, a company for dinners or a conversational partner, Répás expressly said that to the girls.

Even though the call for arranging a prostitute came after midnight it was not a problem for Répás to complete the order. He called a girl, Niki, at 01:03 a.m. on 15th July, 2011, asking her if she was already asleep. If not, she should “go to the Hotel President close to Arany János street, for a 1.5-hour-long work, receiving 100 000 thousand forints” (380 euros at the current currency rate), and she would need to be with one of the friends of József, owner of the hotel.

Niki immediately said yes to the work, and she promised to arrive to the hotel in no more than half an hour. There was, however, a minor problem that Répás was not aware of. Niki knew Gerendás, and she did not want him to find out that she was working as a prostitute. Therefore Niki decided to invite her flatmate, Brigitta, to the hotel and asked her to have sex with the client. In the end, it was Brigitta who at 01:30 a.m. started to take care of the politician in one of the rooms of the hotel, while Niki was chatting with Gerendás downstairs.

“I went up with the client to his room, and he gave me the 400 euros in advance. We had an intercourse once, but as he was very quick, he wanted to have sex one more time. I asked an additional 200 euros for this” – this is how Brigitta recalled in her testimony the 1.5 hours that she spent with the politician.

The police asked the girl to describe the man that he was having sex with that night. “He might have been around 40-45 years old, but I don’t recall how he looked, the whole person was kind of very average” – she said. According to the records of the testimonies, the police did not ask her, neither any of the participants of that night what the name of the politician was. The investigation files contain 47 pictures of men who were identified as clients or other participants in the case but there are no politicians among them.

The investigation files do not show any other sign of the police trying to identify the politician. Thanks to the tapped phone calls, NNI knew exactly when and in which hotels the encounters of prostitutes and their clients took place. The police compiled a list of these hotels in a report, but the name of Hotel President was not included in this list.

11 hotels were listed in the report, and NNI confiscated check-in documents, registration forms and bills in five of them. With the help of these records NNI could identify the clients who slept with prostitutes in the hotels on the specific nights. The bills even show the price of the nuts and almond mix that the guests ate from the minibar during the night. The investigation files, however, do not show any sign of police having confiscated similar documents from the Hotel President.

Connections to both political sides

József Gerendás, a Hungarian-Canadian citizen and the owner of Hotel President at the time of the MP’s affair, also used to be a politician. For 16 years he was a member of the local government in Belváros-Lipótváros, a central district of Budapest. According to his bio, he got elected as member of the local government in 1994, with the support of the Belváros Jövőjéért Egyesület (Association for the Future of the 5th District), an association that he had co-founded with his friends. First he became the leader of the Committee for the Investigation of Cases of Suspected Corruption, and then chaired the Committee of Public Safety.

Several times he was reelected with the support of right-wing Fidesz, now the governing party of Hungary. In April 2006, after not receiving a winning position on the national electoral list of Fidesz, Gerendás switched to the socialists and became the deputy mayor of the district led by the socialist Pál Steiner. In the autumn of 2006 he got elected for the local government as an independent candidate, with the support of socialists. In October 2006, the mayor’s office was taken over by Fidesz, and Gerendás became the vice-president of the Committee for Finance and Public Procurements. In 2009, he opened his 110-room, 5 star luxury hotel, the Hotel President. During the 2010 municipal elections he was an independent candidate, but did not get reelected and dropped out of the municipality.

“Due to the proximity of the Parliament lots of MPs have frequented the Hotel President, and probably they also will in the future. I cannot recall who was in the hotel on 15th June 2011, and what he did. Anything can happen in a hotel, and it is not the task of the hotel owner to comment on anything. I think discretion is more important than anything in this profession.” – said József Gerendás to Direkt36. We contacted Lajos Répás and the prostitutes involved in the June 15 encounter as well, but they did not want to comment on the case.

Although MP’s received housing allowance from the Parliament, there is no proof showing that any of them spent any of it in the Hotel President. During the 2010-2014 term, those MPs who did not own a flat in Budapest could apply for a housing allowance, which was 116 thousand forints per month (about 440 euros at the current exchange rate). Usually they used this allowance for renting an apartment, but they did not have to provide invoices or any other proof of their spending to the Parliament. The Office of the Parliament told us that they do not know of any MPs who paid for their hotel bills using their housing allowance.

We asked every political group in the Parliament whether any of their members reimbursed a hotel bill from Budapest in June 2011 from the operational budget of the fraction. Each responded that they did not register such spending in that time period. LMP, a small green party, has not responded to the questions.

The cheapest room in the Hotel President now costs 31 159 forints per night (100 euros), but employees of the hotel, who asked not to be named, told Direkt36 that Gerendás’ friends generally stayed in the rooms or suites of higher price range. Among these, there are rooms available for 50 thousand forints (160 euros), and more spacious ones for more than 80 thousand forints (255 euros) per night. But these rooms cannot compete with the luxury of the presidential suite that costs 314 thousand forints per night (1000 euros), which has bullet-proof walls and windows, and guests can arrive here even on a helicopter (like the actor Antonio Banderas, who landed on the top of the Hotel President this April). The hotel has security cameras, but their recordings are automatically deleted each month.

Our sources who worked in the Hotel President in June 2011 said that although Gerendás and his friends often received female visitors in the hotel, the owner paid a lot of attention for not leaving any traces after these nights. When Gerendás invited his friends to the hotel, the reception clerks were told not to register the name of the person who spent the night in the hotel. Either they registered the hotel room under Gerendás’s name, or they used the same kind of sign in their database that shows that the room is currently unavailable due to some problems (for example because of a broken TV or a shower).

After the night of June 15, the MP left the hotel dissatisfied. The records of the tapped phone calls reveal that the next morning the hotel owner called Répás and told him that his girls had put him ”in an uncomfortable, awkard situation in front of one of his MP friends” because it was a ”breastless slut” who turned up in the hotel. Gerendás said that he ”has just talked to his friend who is now already in the Parliament.” The MP also complained that the girl ”only had one action in it,” and after the first intercourse she charged extra money.

Répás and Gerendás agreed that the deal included ”one and a half hour, with everything one can get out of it.” Répás plaintively added that none of his models are trustworthy. Then they said goodbye, and never mentioned the night again over the phone.

For information on companies, we used the databases of Ceginfo and Opten.