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June 14, 2024

Former Hungarian insider releases audio he says is proof of corruption in embattled Orbán government

A former Hungarian government insider turned oppositionist released an audio recording on Tuesday that he says is proof that top officials conspired to cover up corruption, the latest twist in a scandal that’s shaken Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s domination of the country’s politics.

The country’s largest protests in years erupted in early February, when it was revealed that the president had issued a pardon to a man imprisoned for covering up a string of child sexual abuse by the director of a state-run orphanage.

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

The latest allegations come from Varga’s ex-husband, Peter Magyar, a former political insider who says he has turned whistleblower to reveal the extent of the scandal.

Protesters hold up a sign denouncing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that reads ”The king is naked” in Budapest on March 15.Balint Szentgallay / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

He published a recording on Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday morning featuring Varga’s voice describing how other government officials caused evidence to be removed from court records to cover up their roles in corrupt business dealings.

“They suggested to the prosecutors what should be removed,” Varga says in the recording, which Magyar says he made during a conversation in the former couple’s apartment.

He gave the tape to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Budapest Tuesday morning to be used as evidence.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Varga accused Magyar of domestic violence during their marriage and claimed she had made the statements under duress.

“I said what he wanted to hear so I could get away 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 the claims in a separate post on Facebook.

Once a senior but little-known member of Orbán’s political circle, Magyar shot to prominence when he gave an interview in February to popular YouTube channel Partizan, where he accused Orbán’s government of widespread corruption and using smear campaigns to discredit its opponents.

Then-Hungarian Minister of Justice Judit Varga speaks at the EU Council headquarter in Brussels in 2023.Thierry Monasse / Getty Images file

On March 15, he addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in Budapest, where he announced plans to form a new political party to challenge Fidesz’s 14-year grip on power as an alternative to Hungary’s fragmented opposition.

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

The government has dismissed him as an opportunist seeking to forge a new career after his divorce with Varga and his loss of positions in several state companies. But Magyar’s rise has compounded political headaches for Orbán that have included the resignation of members of his government and a painful economic crisis.

Magyar has railed against official corruption in Hungary, accusing Orbán of overseeing a nepotistic system of oligarchs that enrich themselves through unfairly awarded government contracts.

He has particularly targeted Antal Rogan, a close Orbán ally who is responsible for the government’s communications as well as the country’s secret services. The recording released Tuesday purports to show that Rogan led the effort to alter evidence.

Varga served as Hungary’s Justice Minister until February when she resigned amid political scandal after it was revealed that the then-president, Katalin Novák, issued a pardon to a convicted accomplice in a case of child sexual abuse.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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