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Two former public servants sentenced to prison in Sukoró case

Two former directors of Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. (MNV) were sentenced to prison by a third-degree court for their roles in the corruption surrounding the Sukoró casino and tourism investment case, reports

Miklós Tátrai, MNV's former Chief Executive Director, and Zsolt Császy, former Director of Sales have been sentenced by the High Court of Hungary to three and two and a half years of imprisonment respectively for attempted misappropriation of funds.
The Sukoró case, which later escalated into one the biggest scandals of the Socialist governments led by Ferenc Gyurcsány, started in 2008 when the National Asset Management Council decided to exchange 70 hectares of state-owned land on the outskirts of Sukoró, lying next to Lake Velence, for 183 hectares of periphery land near Pilis and Albertirsa owned by Israeli-Hungarian businessman Joav Blum, in order to secure land for the planned M4 motorway.
An independent appraiser decided that the Sukoró land was worth HUF 1.08 billion (USD 3.93 million) while the two real estates situated in Pest County were valued at USD 787.4 (USD 2.87 million). The investor paid the difference at the end of that year. The competent prosecutor prevented entering the deal into the land registry because of a procedural error, and the procedure had to be started all over again.
In January 2009 it was revealed that the investment group represented by Blum planned to build a hotel, casino, and recreation center complex worth EUR 1 billion in investments that would have allegedly created 2,600 jobs locally. The project which was called King's City met heavy opposition from civil rights and environmental advocacy groups. Nevertheless, a few months later Ferenc Gyurcsány's socialist government declared the project a priority investment with a government decree.
After Gyurcsány's resignation as PM his successor, Gordon Bajnai, initiated an inquiry into the casino project and the real estate exchange. Around the same time, the Central Detective Chief started investigating an unknown offender for misappropriation of funds causing significant material damage.
According to a report ordered by the Attorney General's Office, the Sukoró land was underpriced in the exchange contract by HUF 737.7 million (USD 2.68 million) while the Pest County real estates were overpriced by HUF 562 million (USD 2.05 million). Should the investment have materialized, it would have caused HUF 1.29 billion (USD 4.7 million) in damage to the Hungarian state.
In the Autumn of 2009, the concession contract required for the operation of the casino was signed, while then-Finance Minister Péter Oszkó ordered the MNV to undo the contract with Blum. If Blum was reluctant to cooperate, Oszkó ordered the MNV to attack their own contract in court.
Right after Fidesz came back to power in 2010, Tátrai and Császy were taken into custody. A year later the National Assembly lifted Ferenc Gyurcsány's immunity from prosecution, and shortly thereafter he was accused of abuse of office by the Central Detective Chief after then-LMP MP András Schiffer filed a report against him. The investigation was dropped in 2012 because of lack of evidence against Gyurcsány.
The same year the Budapest High Court declared the real estate exchange contract null and void. This decision was later confirmed by the High Court of Hungary as well. Meanwhile, Tátrai, Császy and another former MNV employee, as well as an appraiser and a lawyer were officially charged.
In the autumn of 2014, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes decided in favor of the Hungarian state. The international court dismissed the Israeli investment group's lawsuit and request of HUF 100 billion (USD 364.4 million) compensation.
In 2015 the Court of Szolnok sentenced Tátrai, Császy and the lawyer, while the two other suspects were acquitted. The sentenced suspects appealed against the sentencing and the second-degree court acquitted every suspect, but the prosecutor appealed against the decision.
The Sukoró scandal was a long-time weapon in Fidesz's hand against former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány. Prosecuting the offenders of the Sukoró scandal, including Gyurcsány, was one of the main promises of Fidesz's 2010 election campaign that led to their landslide victory.
"Criminals belong in jail...Gyurcsány and the socialists committed the most corrupt governing of all time, they stole the national wealth and are guilty of abuse of power," reads a statement released by Fidesz after the sentencing.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 June 2017 20:02

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