Prime minister’s son-in-law sold his property business to an offshore company

Fotó: Németh Dániel

István Tiborcz, son-in-law of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, did not stay for long in the company with which he came close to state projects. Tiborcz became a majority owner of WHB Ingatlan, a property company, last August but he sold his shares two months later to Synergy Global Consulting Limited, an offshore company registered on the British Virgin Islands, records show.

Due to the secret nature of offshore companies, it is not known who the owners of Synergy Global Consulting are. Tiborcz could not be reached and the director of WHB Ingatlan declined to provide details on the new owners, citing business confidentiality.

WHB Ingatlan had purchased a 13,000 square meter plot of land containing a factory in the city of Komarom in March 2016, according to land and company records.

WHB Ingatlan did not disclose how much it paid for the property, formerly a factory supplying Finnish telecommunications company Nokia. But the company that it bought the property from, Perlos, had previously listed its value as €3.28 million (US$ 3.47 million), according to company records.

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Factories for Perlos and Nokia previously on the land in Komarom had shut down between 2009 in 2014, prompting the government to step in to seek new investors. Then State Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is now Hungary’s foreign minister, instructed the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency to accelerate talks with any company planning to invest in Komarom. Since then, two factories have already been set up on the site.

With the purchase of WHB Ingatlan, István Tiborcz drew attention again to his business activities and his ties to state projects. Previously, he had been the owner of a company that won public tenders under controversial circumstances. Tiborcz later sold his shares in the company, reportedly because he wanted to avoid being attacked for his business activities.

Offshore companies, which are often registered in exotic countries, are used in general for two purposes. One of them is for minimizing the tax burden on income that a company or a person makes in other countries. Since the ownership data of these entities are in most cases very hard to access, these companies are also used for hiding assets or conducting shady businesses.

It is because of these two characteristics that even though owning or using offshore companies is legal there have been major international efforts to crack down on their use.

Viktor Orbán’s party, Fidesz, has also been criticizing heavily public figures having deals with offshore companies. In the 2010 campaign, which brought back Fidesz to power, they called these figures “offshore knights.” At the time, Orbán led these attacks by saying that ”everybody feels that it is not okay” to use offshore companies. Orbán also promised to end the ”age of offshore knights.”

  • András Pethő

    András is a co-founder, editor and executive director of Direkt36. Previously, he was a senior editor for leading Hungarian news site Origo before it had been transformed into the government’s propaganda outlet. He also worked for the BBC World Service in London and was a reporter at the investigative unit of The Washington Post. He has contributed to several international reporting projects, including The Panama Papers. He twice won the Soma Prize, the prestigious annual award dedicated to investigative journalism in Hungary. He was a World Press Institute fellow in 2008, a Humphrey fellow at the University of Maryland in 2012/13, and a Nieman fellow at Harvard University in 2019/20. András has taught journalism courses at Hungarian universities.

  • Anita