Former Hungarian insider releases audio he says is evidence of corruption in Orbán’s stalled government

Former Hungarian insider releases audio he says is evidence of corruption in Orbán’s stalled government
Former Hungarian insider releases audio he says is evidence of corruption in Orbán’s stalled government

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A former Hungarian government insider turned critic released an audio tape Tuesday that he says proves top officials conspired to cover up corruption, the latest development in a scandal that has rocked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s rule in the country politics.

The country’s biggest protests in years erupted in early February when it emerged that the president had pardoned a man sentenced to prison for covering up the sexual abuse of children by the director of a state orphanage.

Close allies of Orbán, including the president and Justice Minister Judith Varga, were forced to resign in the face of public outrage.

The latest accusations come from Varga’s ex-husband, Peter Madjar, a former political insider who says he became a whistleblower to expose the extent of impropriety in Orbán’s government.

On Tuesday, he posted a recording on Facebook and YouTube, featuring what appeared to be Varga’s voice, describing how other government officials caused evidence to be removed from court records to cover up their role in corrupt business deals.

«They suggested to the prosecutors what should be removed,» Varga says in the recording, which Madjar says he made during a conversation in the former couple’s apartment. Varga also says that one of her secretaries of state was tipped off by senior officials that he was the subject of a corruption investigation.

Magyar submitted the recording to the Budapest Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday to be used as evidence.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Varga accused Madjar of domestic violence during their marriage and claimed she made the statements under duress, but did not deny she was on the tape.

“I said what he wanted to hear so I could get out as soon as possible. In a situation like this, any person can say things they don’t mean in a state of intimidation,» Varga wrote. Magyar later denied these claims in a separate Facebook post.

Once a high-ranking but little-known member of Orbán’s political circle, Madjar rose to prominence when he gave an interview in February to the popular YouTube channel Partizan, in which he accused Orbán’s government of widespread corruption and of using smear campaigns to discredit its opponents .

On March 15 he addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in Budapest and announced plans to create a new political party to challenge the ruling party’s 14-year rule as an alternative to Hungary’s fragmented opposition.

The scandal has sparked an unprecedented political crisis in Orbán’s government, which has led Hungary since 2010. Magyar’s followers hope his position as a former insider can help disrupt Hungary’s political system, which many see as a deeply entrenched autocracy.

In his recent public appearances, Madjar took particular aim at Antal Rogan, a close Orbán ally who is in charge of government communications as well as the country’s secret services. The tape, released Tuesday, purports to show that Rogan led the effort to alter evidence.

The government dismissed Madjar as an opportunist looking to build a new career after his divorce from Varga and the loss of positions at several state-owned companies. But his rise has compounded political headaches for Orbán, which include the resignation of members of his government and a painful economic crisis.

After spending nearly four hours at the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday, Madjar told reporters that the alleged tampering with evidence was the reason for Orbán’s government to step down and called for a spontaneous protest later in the day.

On Tuesday night, thousands of demonstrators gathered at Magyar’s insistence outside the prosecutor’s office in Budapest, where he demanded the resignation of the chief prosecutor, whom he accused of acting in the interests of Orbán’s ruling party.

«Let’s together send a message from here that we will not allow them to cover up the biggest legal and political scandal of the last 30 years!» We will not allow it!” he said, adding that he demanded the alleged misconduct “be investigated independently, objectively and without political interference”.

One demonstrator, Katalin Varga, said she identified with Magyar’s political message that corruption in Hungary has led to the collapse of the country’s political, cultural and social life.

«Finally there’s a strength, a character that represents what, to me, is the problem with the current situation: the political system, the abuses and the fact that we’re slowly cooking like frogs and we don’t realize we’re going to be soup,» she said.

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