“Expect breathtaking luxury hotel suites from some of the world’s best designers; Michelin-starred cuisine from Hélène Darroze; pampering and wellness at the luxury Aman Spa, and the perfect Martini, served in the restored splendour of The Connaught Bar.”
This is how The Connaught, a 5-star London hotel, introduces itself on its website. And this is the hotel where János Lázár, the head of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s office, and one of his aides spent two nights on a visit to London in November 2012.
The hotel’s name was revealed as a result of a public information lawsuit launched by one of Direkt36’s journalists. The lawsuit started in early 2014, after the Prime Minister’s Office had refused to answer questions about some of Mr. Lázár’s trips that resulted in unusually high hotel bills.
On a 2012 November three-day trip to England the hotel stay cost more than 3000 euros, on a 2013 March two-day trip to Switzerland it was nearly 1547 euros, and on another two-day trip to Italy in July 2013 it was more than 1920 euros. No other trips of other officials of the Prime Minister’s Office carried hotel bills that were nearly as high as these in 2012 and 2013, a period examined by Pethő.
In case of the England trip the government’s legal representative argued that its details had been classified. During the trial the judge was given access to the confidential document and concluded that the details of Lázár’s meetings are indeed classified information. The judge also said, however, that the classified document does not include any information about the hotel where Lázár stayed, and therefore that detail does not enjoy any protection.
The government’s lawyer argued that disclosure of the hotel’s name will make it possible to identify the city where Lázár’s meetings took place. This information is included in the classified document. This argument was weakened, however, by Mr. Lázár himself. It was him who revealed it in an interview last year that his meetings took place in London.
The lawsuit was launched by András Pethő, a reporter of Direkt36, with the legal assistance of Transparency International. Pethő was represented in court by lawyer Dániel Karsai.
Lázár and one of his aides spent two nights in London in November 2012, spending nearly 3 thousand euros on accommodation. The Prime Minister’s Office said that they are unable to tell how much Lázár’s room cost, due to accounting reasons.
In another development, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the Prime Minister’s Office does not have to reveal the identity of Lázár’s negotiation partners on his trips to Milan and Zurich.
This ruling can be challenged in the Constitutional Court, said Dániel Karsai, who welcomed the disclosure of the London hotel’s name. “We are not happy that we had to go to court but at least once the court issued a ruling, the Prime Minister’s Office released the information, following the principles of the rule of law,” he said.