Leaked recordings of MSZP's district politicians point towards corruption and conflicts of interest
Local politicians of the Kispest (XIX. district of Budapest) branch of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) can be heard discussing bribes, background deals, and conflicts of interest on the audio footage that Magyar Nemzet analysed in a three-article series this week. Most of the recordings feature Csaba Lackner, a local politician of MSZP talking about other politicians and their dealings without restraints. HírTV also broadcasted a video of Lackner where he can be seen at a meeting that looks like a drug party, talking about district affairs. Lackner also made damning statements about the leader of the district's asset management firm, a certain Krisztián Kránitz, who is also a politician of MSZP. District mayor Péter Gajda denies the allegations and claims that it's all "fake news."
The leaked audio features Lackner nonchalantly talking about money that ended up at the leader of the asset management firm that is in charge of the district's public procurements.
The second part of the series mentioned millions of Forints that went to the mayor, but it mostly explains how things deteriorated due to the "hunger" of Kránitz, who is mentioned on the audio footage as Mr. 40%, and who is not running for reelection this year as he fell out with the two most influential socialists of the district, Sándor Burány and the mayor Péter Gajda. The fight with the latter supposedly stemmed from real estate purchases in the district. Gajda allegedly wanted to buy apartments when it became apparent that Kránitz was faster and had already purchased real estate in the same place under his mother's name, which made the mayor feel as if Kránitz had reached over his head.
But, for some reason, Kránitz was personally important, so he had to be saved somehow. As it can be heard on the leaked audio, Lackner suggested that the mayor should make Kránitz sit with the Democratic Coalition (DK) and run for reelection with their support. For this to go through, Lackner suggested, Gajda should offer a deputy mayoral position to DK. Index asked DK's spokesperson Zsolt Gréczy if Kránitz switching parties had been on the table at any point, but Gréczy claimed it was not, and DK had nominated their candidates in their four XIX. district constituencies before the recording occurred, and they already had a deputy mayor in the district.
A representative's husband seems to have cashed in
The third piece of Nemzet's series had shed light on suspicious dealings around another local representative, László Somogyiné (Mrs László Somogyi). Her husband, László Somogyi is considered to be one of the great winners in the district, and as Magyar Nemzet writes, his company Anildia Kft. "appears as a winner or a subcontractor in many of the district's public procurement procedures," and nothing illustrates better how difficult it is to separate the public and private spheres in one's life than the fact that Somogyiné happened to use an email address with the name "anildia" in it even for correspondence in her official capacity. This email address no longer exists, however, according to Nemzet, the conflict of interest claim is further supported by Gajda repeatedly having to take the representative into his defence.
Even in the first two articles of Nemzet, Somogyi was often mentioned as the businessman who was reluctant to pay the leader of the asset management firm, but in hopes of further contracts, ended up handing 12 million Forints over to Kránitz anyways, at least that is what Lackner and others are talking about on the tapes. It is unclear whether this actually happened or if these are just the boastings of someone sitting in the middle of a cocaine binge, as we could not get through to Somogyi over the phone.
Magyar Nemzet writes that Somogyi had another company with lots of district contracts too. The winner of the public procurement procedure to renovate the district healthcare centre is Compassion Kft, which Nemzet claims to have personal connections to Somogyi. For instance, temporary employees of the company have never met József Eckert, Compassion's registered CEO, and as the paper writes, Somogyi regularly negotiated on behalf of the company. Also, when Nemzet's journalist visited the HQ of the company, he was given the name and contacts of Somogyi instead of Eckert. Compassion did not only win the 211 million contract for renovating the health centre but was a regular bidder on district tenders, winning over a billion Forints over the years altogether.
Another weird thing is that when you search for Anildia on Google, the search engine takes you to the ratings of Compassion Kft.
Based on the audio footage, Magyar Nemzet claims that Somogyi represented Compassion at the negotiations about the health centre where mayor Péter Gajda and others have discussed details of the contract. It's no coincidence then that Somogyi ended up handing the 12 million Forints over to Kránitz, but as it can be heard on the leaked audio, when it became apparent that Kránitz will not be running for reelection, a panicked Somogyi asked Lackner:
"Now what the fuck will happen with me?"
But it wasn't only Kránitz who got into conflict with his own circles as Lackner mentioned, and as he revealed in another conversation, Kránitz's girlfriend had humiliated Somogyi and the others at a skiing trip they all attended together. Kránítz's girlfriend spat on Somogyi and threatened mayor Péter Gajda and Csaba Lackner saying "The only reason you are alive is that I did not start singing about you guys yet." Others taking part in the conversation can be heard remarking: "And he's in finances. He brought the bird in, and she's still hungry."
Responding to Index's questions, mayor Péter Gajda denied that any of the events Magyar Nemzet described had happened. As he emailed us: "The pro-government press is spreading lies about me and my colleagues. I could simply say that it is fake news."
We also asked the mayor what he knows about the deals of Anildia and Compassion, and if Somogyi negotiated Compassion's contract, to which the mayor said "I was not present at those negotiations, I have no knowledge of who represented themselves there. I do not comment on the affairs of private companies," adding that all of the "slanderous sentences are lies with no basis whatsoever," and that
they will be taking all necessary legal steps against "the lies that had already been published and those that are yet to be."
But these legal steps could find themselves crossing the path of another complaint according to Magyar Nemzet, filed to the police by an unnamed businessman mentioning Lackner and Somogyi by their names. As they wrote, the police has ordered an investigation that is currently ongoing.
We have tried to acquire statements from Sándor Burány, the representatives, Krisztián Kránitz and the Somogyis, but so far, without success.
(Cover: XIX. district local representative Csaba Lackner)
This article is a direct translation of the original published in Hungarian by Index.
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