The Budapest Assembly has decided to set up a commission of inquiry to examine the sales of “suspicious” properties of the various directorates supported by Fidesz in downtown Budapest. The majority opposition committee also wants to investigate the local real estate transactions of György Schadl, the key figure in the corruption scandal of former Deputy Justice Minister Pál Völner.
Over the past two years, the 5th district, led by Fidesz’s Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi (previously led by outgoing minister Antal Rogán), has sold billions of forints of real estate assets without guaranteeing the capital’s right of pre-purchase, according to the suspicion of the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony. In his communication, Karácsony pointed out that in recent weeks alone, the district of Szentgyörgyvölgyi had notified the capital of the sale of some eight properties, while failing to provide the data necessary to grant the pre-purchase rights, even after repeated requests.
Szentgyörgyvölgyi unilaterally decided to sell 2.2 billion HUF (6.1 million EUR) of real estate assets at the end of 2020, during the state of emergency. Similarly, at an extraordinary meeting called by the mayor on December 16 last year, an additional HUF 1.3 billion (€3.6 million) of assets were sold, after the majority of the Fidesz gave the green light.
“If we have investigated what does not exist, let us investigate what exists”
commented Gergely Karácsony. Its wording confirms that this decision is not completely independent of the town hall affair, in which the pro-Fidesz media accused the current opposition leadership of wanting to sell the town hall (but in which a similar committee established that there was no such intention).
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According to the politician, the procedure was similar in all cases: real estate assets worth billions are announced in so-called “international” tenders but in fact accessible to a few, and are then sold at a discount or at the price of the land valuation previously prepared for the municipality, after the only bidder has made an offer of approximately this amount.
Reportedly, even the government commissioner responsible for the government office in Budapest, Botond Sára, criticized this type of procedure.
According to the justification of the 5th arrondissement, the properties in question have been vacant for years, creating a burden for the inhabitants, and are therefore worth selling.
In fact, the seven-member committee will be led by the mayor of the 7th arrondissement, Péter Niedermüller (from the Democratic Coalition), which is no coincidence, since many properties in his arrondissement were sold under the previous administration. (Fidesz), the presumed tenants being subject to a pre-purchase right of 30%.
Fidesz: Karácsony wants to divert attention from the town hall affair
According to the reaction of Szentgyörgyvölgyi, Fidesz-KDNP mayor of District V, the capital’s leadership just wants to divert attention from “complicated matters” with the commission of inquiry, and he wondered if the capital could exercise control on the sovereign municipality. The leader of the Fidesz-KDNP group in the Budapest Assembly, Zsolt Láng, said that the creation of the commission was in response to the “willingness of the municipal administration to get rid of the burden of the town hall affair”, which could be considered a kind of “revenge”. ”
Relevance of the Schadl-Völner case
In addition, there are many real estate sales linked to “the biggest corruption case of the last 30 years”, namely the Schadl-Völner affair, says Karácsony, because this aforementioned method was the one by which György Schadl also put the hand over several properties. The president of the Hungarian Chamber of Judicial Officers, for example, obtained a 49 square meter store in Városház Street for only 389,000 HUF (1,085 EUR) per square meter (well below the average price per square meter in the neighborhood).
This is in addition to other Budapest properties that Schadl has recently purchased, purchases that Karácsony now wants to review.
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Karácsony also insisted that in the future Budapest management may be granted a right of first refusal when a district management wishes to sell its property.
featured image: Szentgyörgyvölgyi and Láng at the Budapest Assembly; via Tamas Kovacs/MTI