Forrás: Vanik Zoltán

A corruption investigation has been shrouded in secrecy. Now here is what happened

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In March 2013, a worried man called one of his acquaintances, a prominent businessman in Budapest’s 5th district. Not long before, the man had opened a restaurant close to St. Stephen’s Basilica, and he asked the businessman if he knew anything about his pending application with the local government to get a licence for late-night opening hours.

What they probably did not know during this conversation was that their phones were tapped by the authorities.

This recorded conversation was, among others, the basis of a criminal investigation into some dealings of the 5th district’s municipality. The investigation was made public more than a year ago, attracting huge attention. Most of its details, however, have remained unknown.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that one of the suspects is the district’s former notary, László Rónaszéki. The Central Investigative Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the agency conducting the investigation, also announced that there were two more suspects in the case but neither their identities nor the details of their alleged crimes were disclosed or reported by the media.

Direkt36, however, has learned key information about the investigation and the suspects from sources who are familiar with the case.

One of the most important details is that one of the two hitherto unknown suspects is a businessman whose activities were strongly connected to the 5th district’s municipality. János Borzován, through one of his companies, had been one of the most regularly contracted construction entrepreneurs of the local government. In the last few years, he left most of his companies, but Direkt36 recently revealed that he has several indirect links to a firm that still has a contract with the municipality worth 2 billion forints (6,3 million euros).

The prosecutors suspect Borzován of three crimes: abuse of office committed as instigator, profiteering from abuse of office by claiming bribery (this slightly complicated legal term means that he allegedly said that he could get some official things done in exchange for money), and profiteering from abuse of office. The prosecutors did not provide more information about the accusations, but documents and sources reveal that the investigation is partly about a request for a restaurant licence.

Here is the summary of our story in a short video:

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Late opening hours

Borzován was the businessman whom the worried restaurant owner called in March 2013, discussing the licence requested from the local government. The man and his business partners had opened a restaurant close to the Basilica at the beginning of that year and they wanted to have a licence for opening also at night. According to the corresponding law, a licence from the district’s notary is needed if a restaurant wants to be open between midnight and 6 a.m. This is why the owner of the restaurant had filed a licence application, even before opening, with the local government.

The information on the 5th district’s website shows the fee for this application is 3,000 forints (9.5 euros).  In the case of this restaurant, however, the real cost, according to the prosecutors, may have been a lot higher.

Borzován is suspected of having told his acquaintance that he could influence the local government’s decision. To do so, he asked for 1.5 million forints (4,800 euros). The documents of the investigation reveal that a few days after the phone conversation with the restaurant owner, Borzován indeed spoke with Rónaszéki about the licence application. A couple of days later, one of the colleagues of the restaurant owner took the money to the place previously agreed upon. The next day, the local government acknowledged the licence application and registered the restaurant’s late-night opening hours.

László Rónaszéki’s lawyer refused to comment on the case and even asked not to be named in this article. The lawyer of the restaurant owner, Antal Dezső, also said that neither he nor his client wanted to say anything. “János Borzován did not commit any of those crimes”, said Borzován’s lawyer, Tamás Fülöp, in response to a letter containing Direkt36’s findings about the prosecutors’ case.

The licence for the late-night opening is only one part of the investigation. Other elements of the accusations are in connection with the acquisition of the pre-emptive rights of a local government’s property, a source familiar with the investigation told Direkt36. Other details of this alleged crime have not been be obtained yet.

The Central Investigative Chief Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on Direkt36’s information. They said that all three suspects of the case filed a complaint against the accusation, but these complaints were rejected by the Office of the Prosecutor General.

The investigation is still ongoing and the suspects will stand trial only if the prosecutors indict them at the end of the process. It will only be decided in a potential court trial if the suspects committed the crimes they are suspected of.

A long career ended badly

The case, however, is interesting even at this stage, mainly because of the identity of two of the suspects. László Rónaszéki had been the notary of the 5th district for 14 years, since 1999,, working together with local government leaders from different political parties. At the time of his appointment, the mayor was Károly Karsai from Fidesz. He then worked with the socialist Pál Steiner, who was followed by Antal Rogán in 2006.  Even back then, Rogán was one of the more powerful politicians in Fidesz, the current governing party.

In 2012, Rónaszéki received the title of chief notary from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in “recognition of his continuously outstanding professional work,” but a year later his career in the 5th district came to an inglorious end.

He was removed from his position in 2013, which did not arouse much attention at the time. But when he later became a suspect in the investigation, the circumstances of his departure came under scrutiny. At the beginning of this year, Rogán told the press that Rónaszéki had to leave after a loss of confidence in him because of the sale of a property. This deal is one of those property sales which are being examined in an ongoing police investigation. There are no suspects in the case so far.

An attractive businessman

Just like Rónaszéki, Borzován also avoided the spotlight for a long time. He managed to do this even though he had been one of the construction entrepreneurs most often contracted by the local government in the 5th district, a municipality that has always been considered especially important simply because its central location in the capital city.

Between 2000 and 2010, Borzován’s company, BAU Holding 2000 Ltd., received contracts from the 5th district – often as member of consortia – totalling 6.5 billion forints (20.6 million euros), procurement records show. Data analysis provided by the CEU Microdata research group shows that no other company won more from the local government in this period.

Some articles were published about the close relationship between the 5th district and BAU Holding. Borzován commented in some cases but he clearly did not seek publicity. We could not even find photos of the 51-year old man, who is described by those who know him as attractive and always elegantly dressed.

In the past four years, the total revenues of János Borzován’s companies started to fall, and they also received less work from the 5th district. The businessman also left several of his firms, and according to the business registry, he now owns just one. This company has not made any profits since 2010 and its assets once amounting to tens of millions of forints had fallen last year to just a few million forints.

The money’s place

Borzován’s name, however, appeared in connection with a company that has been performing outstandingly well in the past few years. This firm is called EU-Line Ltd. and is very active in the 5th district. Since its foundation in 2011 it has won – partly as member of several consortia – public tenders worth at least 6.4 billion forints (20.3 million euros). The company received most of these contracts –totalling almost 5.5 billion forints (17.4 million euros) – from the 5th district.

Direkt36 recently wrote about the apparently unusual ownership background of the company. Its owner is a 30-year-old man, András Bódis, who, before the launch of EU-Line Ltd, had not owned any other companies nor had experience in major construction projects. In 2011, when the company was created, he was working as a hotel facility manager. He is still working there, despite the fact that his company (of which he is the sole owner) has contracts worth of billions of forints, and made a profit of 137 million forints (434,000 euros) last year.

A recent investigation by Direkt36 showed that there are several indirect links between EU-Line and János Borzován. Bódis and Borzován confirmed knowing each other, but they also claimed that their relationship had nothing to do with EU-Line’s activities.

One of the links between the two men was the hotel where András Bódis works. We showed Borzován’s connections to the hotel in our previous article, pointing to companies as far as Uruguay. He acknowledged these links but claimed that this did not mean that the hotel belongs to him.

The Hotel Central Basilica, close to St. Stephen’s Basilica, is also mentioned in the investigation in which Borzován is a suspect. Sources familiar with the investigation told Direkt36 that this was the hotel where the colleague of the restaurant owner took the money that Borzován allegedly asked for.

When others freak out

The deadline to conclude the investigation is September 13. The prosecutors did not answer our question regarding the starting date of the procedure, saying only that. they started the investigation “based on the data of our own work and on the report of the National Protective Service.” NPS, an agency dedicated to uncover wrongdoings committed by civil servants, did not answer our questions, including an inquiry whether their initial investigation found other suspicious cases in addition to the ones that later became the subject of the prosecutors’ investigation.

Both the Central Investigative Chief Prosecutor’s Office and the National Protective Service are well-equipped law-enforcement agencies with broad authority. The suspects are accused of crimes that, if convicted, could send them to prison for several years, according to the Criminal Code.

Those who know Borzován describe him as a confident man, who enjoys seemingly impossible situations. One of his former employees says that Borzován has the ability to see positive things in negative situations, as well. “If there is trouble and everybody freaks out, he says that it is fucking great, and he will come out of it a winner,” says one of his former employees. He added, however, that these were business situations, not criminal investigations.

Source of the cover photo:

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

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