Xpat Opinion: Never Ending Land Swap Story Of Sukoró

  • 24 Apr 2012 9:00 AM
Xpat Opinion: Never Ending Land Swap Story Of Sukoró
In case you forgot what Sukoró is all about, it was a land swap involving Joav Blum, a Hungarian-Israeli businessman, and the Hungarian state. The details of the swap were handled by the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő (MNV), a government office in charge of state properties.

Questions about the land swap emerged early, even before the 2010 elections. The government of Gordon Bajnai was under such fire that the decision was made to investigate the case. Soon enough Finance Minister Péter Oszkó fired Miklós Tátrai, the CEO of MNV.

Oszkó subsequently proudly announced several times that Fidesz's allegations of financial wrongdoing in connection with the land swap were completely unfounded because after all it was the socialist-liberal government that made the first move to look into possible illegalities in the transaction. With this statement he practically suggested individual wrongdoing even before the case got to court.

After Fidesz won the elections the new government immediately launched a parliamentary investigation into the Sukoró case; later the prosecutors also moved into action. The result was that both Miklós Tátrai and his deputy, Zsolt Császy, were arrested and kept in jail for a little over half a year. I devoted a fairly lengthy post to the subject (April 9, 2011), which might serve as background to today's piece.

The subject of today's post is an offshoot of the Sukoró land swap fracas.The case that was decided on April 17 in Miklós Tátrai's favor involved the legality of his firing. Tátrai, if he had been let go under normal circumstances, would have received a whole year's salary. However, Péter Oszkó fired him summarily (rendkívüli felmondás), an action that resulted in no compensation. The court decided that his summary dismissal was illegal and awarded him compensation for lost revenues with interest. Thus MNV will have to pay Tátrai about 200 million forints.

According to the court's decision Péter Oszkó didn't even have the right to dismiss Tátrai, only a body called Nemzeti Vagyongazdálkodási Tanács (NVT) could have fired him. Péter Oszkó, on the other hand, disputes the court's findings. Given the frontal attack by Fidesz against Tátrai it seems to me fairly low of Oszkó to tell MTI that "there was no question that Tátrai had to go." That was bad enough, but when I read that Oszkó also brought up that Tátrai is under criminal investigation which, to his mind, justifies his decision to fire Tátrai, I was more than astonished. I was disgusted. The final straw for me was Oszkó's call for MNV to defend his decision instead of "using it as a political attack" on his person.

I find Oszkó's behavior in this case symptomatic of the mentality of the Hungarian democratic forces. Instead of sticking up for each other, some of these folks sink so low as to stab in the back those who are accused of crimes they probably never committed. I am not expecting Oszkó to admit that he fired Tátrai illegally, but I certainly expect him not to dispute the court's decision. He should just remain quiet, especially while the case against Tátrai and Császy is underway.

This statement was not left unanswered by Miklós Tátrai, who wrote an open letter to Péter Oszkó on his blog. It seems that Tátrai was especially outraged over Oszkó's demand for protection by MNV when he "as minister in charge of MNV didn't feel the necessity to defend the decision and associates of MNV from political attacks." From Tátrai's letter it is also clear that the settlement Tátrai signed included a clause stating that the parties involved don't criticize each other in public, yet Oszkó immediately began a campaign against him.

Tátrai rightly pointed out in his letter that whatever criminal investigation is underway at the moment, it has nothing to do with the labor dispute. The former minister of finance should, as a man with legal training, know about the presumption of innocence doctrine. Moreover, as a politician of left-liberal views Oszkó "suggests that those who are the victims of political attacks from the other side are actually guilty." Tátrai strongly objects to such an approach in the name of all decent people who served under left-liberal governments.

Tátrai's final sentence is really hard-hitting and I'm afraid only too true. "Don't be surprised that when you look into the mirror you see the face of Gyula Budai." Budai is the one who is in charge of investigating criminal cases associated with earlier administrations. Up to now Budai must have collected close to fifty cases. One is weaker than the next. Most of them don't even get to be officially investigated.

Congratulations, Péter Oszkó. One fewer person to think highly of in Hungarian politics.

Source: Hungarian Spectrum

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