Owner of left-wing portal also suspected of misappropriation
In addition to Zoltan Varga, Hungary's National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) suspects the involvement of another person in the case that concerns the sale of a company linked to the owner of Central Media Group, which operates many left-wing media outlets, including 24.hu. The company in question, essentially set up from EU money, was sold well below market price a few years ago. Both persons are suspected of misappropriation of funds, among other crimes.
There are two suspects in the criminal proceedings. One of them is opposition media mogul Zoltan Varga, the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet writes. Hungary’s tax office presumes that the owner of the 24.hu news portal may put a dent into the EU’s budget a few years ago by selling the shares of Nogradi Vegyipari Zrt, a chemical company previously linked to him and essentially set up from EU funds.
The investigation was launched after Fidesz lawmaker Gyula Budai first reported the case to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) last year and filed a complaint with NAV a few months later.
According to information obtained by the daily, the financial investigators suspect that the financial damage is more than half a billion forints. A statement issued yesterday by Gabor Pap, Zoltan Varga’s lawyer, reveals that the media mogul denies the crime he is suspected of.
“My client did not commit any crime, the allegations communicated to him are incomplete and based on an erroneous interpretation of criminal law. For this reason we both filed a complaint against the allegations,”
Varga’s defence attorney stated. The Magyar Nemzet also contacted the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office in the case, to inquire about the total number of suspects in the criminal proceedings being investigated by NAV in connection with the sale of a company registered in Hungary’s Nograd County. The paper was also curious about whether all the defendants were suspected of budgetary fraud, and whether those involved had filed a complaint against the allegation. Magyar Nemzet also asked if there was anyone whose arrest or criminal supervision had been initiated.
The Prosecutor’s Office finally sent the following response:
“Based on the details provided, it was possible to identify a criminal case in which charges were brought yesterday. The proceedings have entered into the investigative phase with the management powers transferred to Budapest’s 9th District Attorney’s Office. In the case, the investigating authority – on the well-founded suspicion of budgetary fraud and misappropriation oif funds – questioned two persons as suspects, who filed a complaint against the allegations. No arrests were made. The complaints against the allegations are being assessed at the relevant district prosecutor’s office.”