119 reports, 30 investigations, no charges

Opposition politicians have reported 119 cases of corruption or other crimes to the police in the last six years. None made it through the prosecution and no charges were pressed.

Népszava asked every opposition party in parliament how many cases of suspected corruption or other crimes they have reported to the police. They all gave detailed answers and the answer was 119.

There was some kind of investigation in 30 of these cases, even though some of those were record short. Prosecutors never found anything wrong.

Their official justifications were as infuriating as if they were written with the intention of mad-dogging the opposition. Ákos Hadházy, one of the country’s top anti-corruption crusaders told Népszava about a case when the prosecution wrote that the suspect’s “mental state couldn’t grasp” that 25 million forints is too much money for the de-icing of a football pitch. But a similar thing happened when the chief prosecutor refused to investigate the country’s biggest pyramid scheme with political ties, written about in detail in the press and with a long, confessional interview with the perpetrator. He said it was not his job to read the press.

The two things autocrats (and increasingly any politician) want power is to steal and to have impunity. A loyalist prosecutor can be a massive pillar of such a regime.

A paper by Péter Róbert and Balázs Fekete researched (pdf) Hungarians’ trust in the legal system by asking people how likely they think they were to win a court case (in which they are right) against: 1) a neighbour, 2) a boss, 3) a bank, 4) the police, 5) the tax authority, 6) a rich entrepreneur, or 7) a politician. Only 2% thought that they would win against a politician. If they were otherwise right.

And only 10% thought they would win against a measly neighbor – indicating that it’s not just the fear of the all-powerful oligarchs and above-the-law politicians that makes people feel legally helpless. And that was back in 2016, when Hungarian courts were still stubbornly independent, Orbán could only manipulate results by owning the prosecution and making sure cases were never brought against important loyalists.

In 2020, he managed to put a loyalist on top of the Curia – who was a deputy to his famously loyal chief prosecutor and had no previous courtroom experience – completing his work.

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