Meet the MP who left out nearly 5 million euros of his wealth declarations

Forrás: Fidesz/KDNP

There is no other member of the Hungarian Parliament who received nearly as much state and EU subsidies last year as him. He was extremely successful in collecting grants in previous years as well: a company he co-owns has got more than 2.5 billion HUF (approximately 8.1 million euros) in total since 2012.

Of all this, however, he only declared 925.5 million HUF (3 million euros) in his wealth declarations. The rest of the money is totally missing from these official documents.

We are talking about Sándor Farkas, an MP from the governing Fidesz party, who is not a well-known politician nationally but he is a quite active one. Besides being an MP, he is the head of Fidesz in Csongrád County, works as a government commissioner and is the chairman of the Hungarian Animal Breeders Association.

Farkas said that the reason for the discrepancy is that some subsidies are granted in one year and paid in the following year. He added that each year he only declared the amount that was granted and actually paid. It also means, however, that he never declared those parts of the subsidies that were transferred later.

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When Direkt36 asked whether he considered it a problem that this way, 1.5 billion HUF (4.8 million euros) was entirely left out of his wealth declarations, he said: ”What would happen if I declared another 300 million forints? Nothing.”

Farkas’ story is another example that shows how broken the wealth declaration system is. Direkt36 had published a series of articles about the system’s flaws last year and the MPs’ latest declarations filed this January showed that the problems have not gone away.

Our research has showed once again that the declaration rules are too flexible which makes it easy to make even honest mistakes. But even those MPs who deliberately declare false information do not have to fear any serious consequences.

A big difference

MPs are obliged to declare any state or EU subsidies they (or their companies) were given in the last section of the wealth declaration forms. This may come from, for example, EU funds for business development, but in most cases, it comes from agricultural funds. Anyone who owns land or does any kind of agriculture-related work (such as beekeeping) can be entitled to such subsidies.

The paid agricultural subsidies are made public, the data are accessible on the website of the Hungarian State Treasury. The list available there contains every subsidy that was actually paid from year to year (subsidies are awarded yearly but are actually paid in the year following the decision). Direkt36 has compared these data with the figures filed by politicians in their wealth declarations.

As they have to declare every subsidy they were given, in theory the numbers should match the Treasury’s dataset.

MP Sándor Farkas is a co-owner and chairman of the board at Kinizsi 2000 Mezőgazdasági Zrt. (Kinizsi 2000 Agricultural Ltd.), where his wife is CEO. The company makes around 100-200 million HUF (325.000-650.000 euro) profit yearly. According to Treasury figures, Kinizsi 2000 was paid 243 million HUF (790.000 euro) in 2016.

These were different types of agricultural subsidies paid for lands, beef cattle, dairy cow, sugar beet, protein crops etc. Yet Farkas declared only 145.189.343 HUF (472.000 euro) of subsidies in total this January. This was almost 100 mn HUF (325.000 euro) less than what the Treasury data showed.

The same happened with his declaration in previous years, too. In 2014, Kinizsi 2000 Ltd. was paid 489.3 million HUF (1.6 million euros), but Farkas only declared 162 million HUF (526.000 euros). Every year since 2012, he declared far less subsidies than his company actuallyreceived.The difference is more than 1.5 billion HUF (4.8 million euros) in total.

Missing information

Farkas also omitted other relevant information from his wealth declaration. In the last two years, he declared that he has ownership in two companies. However, according to the company registry he holds share in other companies as well. He is a shareholder in the Fábiáni Lovas-túrizmus Kft. He told Direkt36 that he simply left it out from the wealth declaration.

He has a share in the company called Szentesi Árpád Nagybani Piac Kft, too. He told Direkt36 that he would swear on his life that he has nothing to do with that company, but after our inquiries he checked and realised that he and his wife has a minor, less than 1% share in the company. Since receiving our questions, he has amended his wealth declaration and listed these two companies.

Farkas also failed to list all of his incomes in the wealth declaration. All he declared was a 5.1 million forints (16 600 euros) income from his family farm. This is not everything, however. Since last year, he has been supervising the reorganisation of the state farm in Mezőhegyes as a government commissioner. This assignment comes with the salary of a state secretary, which is 997 200 forints (3250 euros) for a month. Farkas promised that he would add this to his declaration soon.

Others with inaccurate figures

While Sándor Farkas is the record holder among MPs in getting and hiding farm subsidies, he is not the only one who failed to report accurately the subsidies from last year. 18 MPs received state subsidies but only three of them reported them accurately, our analysis showed.

György Czerván, the state secratary for Ministry of Agriculture is one of those who submitted an inaccurate declaration. He got farm subsidies as a private farmer and as owner of two agricultural companies. He listed his private subsidies accurately, but for his companies he declared 20 million forints (65 000 euros) less than what the Treasury data show. When asked about the differences he stated that he gave the correct numbers in his wealth declaration, and his declaration matches the Treasury data. We did the comparison again but the difference was still there.

We found discrepancies in the declarations of Benedek Sallai R., an MP for the opposition party LMP. He gave the same explanation as Farkas gave. He said that he didn’t list the subsidies granted for 2015 but paid in 2016 in his wealth declaration. “Maybe I was wrong and misunderstood the question,” he said.

Others corrected their wealth declarations after receiving our questions, and an MP proved with bank transfer documents that he listed everything he got from the Treasury last year, even though it was less than the Treasury data.

According to the Treasury, there are only two possible cases in which a farmer gets a different amount than listed in the Treasury database. If a person or a company has unpaid taxes the Treasury would transfer that amount to the tax authority directly, so the subsidised would receive less.