Mystery businessman of the 90s faces criminal charges

A man who has been linked to a number of suspicious cases over the past decades and is considered a key silent member of the country’s economic establishment is facing criminal charges for fraud and embezzlement, among others.

The court in the city of Eger is conducting the trial of six individuals on charges of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering public funds in the value of close to HUF 100 million. One of the defendants in the case covered by atlatszo.hu is a man named György Hargitai.

Hargitai is a returning figure of business reporting in Hungary, even though little is actually known for fact about his activities. He established his reputation shipping electronics and computer components in the isolated eastern block of Europe during the 70s, then went on to form a number of partnerships, several of which ended under suspicious circumstances. A book written by an investigative journalist about Hargitai’s past has identified potential links to the KGB and other secret services through shipping IT equipment on the COCOM list, as well as organized crime.

He also played a role in the collapse of Central Wechsel- und Creditbank AG (CW), a subsidiary founded in Vienna by the National Bank of Hungary. The company aggregated losses reaching nearly HUF 100 billion through bad loans, a significant portion of which went to Hargitai’s interests.

Over the years, he has also established good relations with senior politicians, and was linked to Piroska Apró, former socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s mother-in-law. Apró was a highly influential party figure before the democratic switch in 1989 and had business with Hargitai.

The latest matter which turned into a police investigation also dates to the reign of socialist governments and was looked into after a change in government in 2010. The prosecutors allege that a state-funded bath construction project in northeastern Hungary’s Egerszalók, a small town well-known for its thermal water, involved Hargitai and his associates/accomplices, his son included, who syphoned millions of state funds into offshore accounts under false pretenses.

The trial is ongoing, the first hearing was cut short due to the absence of one of the defendants.

The Hungarian language source article was posted on 24 April 2014.