Police gave up hope of finding perpetrator in Budapest construction crime

The Budapest Metropolitan Police have suspended its criminal inquiry into a major procurement of Budapest’s 8th district, which was won by a consortium that made false statements in order to qualify for the tender.

According to a Metropolitan Police resolution dated August 17, their investigation confirmed that a crime took place but they could not determine who committed it. The police were investigating the case on suspicion of use of false documents.

The investigation was triggered by a Direkt36 story, which exposed the controversial procurement concerning the renovation of a local clinic.

The contract, worth nearly 1 billion forints (3.2 million euros), was awarded to a consortium led by construction company EU-Line, which had to prove that it had done similar work in the past. The group of companies claimed that one of its members had renovated a clinic in the distant country of Uruguay. A Direkt36 investigation has revealed that this was not true.

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The renovation indeed took place but documents and interviews showed that the reference contained several false claims. For the work in Budapest, bidders were required to show that during their previous clinic renovation they carried out the replacement of at least one elevator. In the Uruguayan clinic, however, there has never been an elevator. This was not the only lie that the company said in the reference. Other pieces of information suggest that the firm had nothing to do with the construction at all.

István Tényi, a citizen known for bombarding the authorities with criminal complaints based on news reports, submitted a complaint based on Direkt36’s story on the day of the publication. Tényi now shared the police’s resolution with Direkt36. The Metropolitan Police’s press office has not commented the case yet.

The clinic’s renovation was finished at the end of 2015. The municipality of the 8th district, led by mayor Máté Kocsis, a prominent member of the governing Fidesz party, earlier told Direkt36 that they would not look into the procurement. “It is not the municipalities’ responsibility to check the tender bidders’ ownership structure or the truthfulness of their references,” the municipality said.

EU-Line, whose unusual ownership structure Direkt36 exposed in a previous story, continued to receive new contracts from the 8th district even after the publication of the story about the controversial clinic renovation procurement. The municipality did not respond to questions on why they hired EU-Line even after it had been revealed that the company won a previous tender through false claims.

  • 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.