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Old friends step in to buy embattled tax inspector’s house

The head of Hungary’s tax authority, Ildikó Vida, managed a quick sale of the house where she lived prior to her appointment in 2010, apparently in order to avoid disclosing her actual wealth. Atlatszo.hu found that the buyer was none other than the company that has won a large number of public contracts, and whose owner happens to have a close personal relationship with the prime minister.

As the head of Hungary’s tax authority, Ildikó Vida recently achieved infamy in Hungary (read more) after being accused by the United States of involvement in corrupt practices, resulting in a ban from entering the US. Atlatszo.hu found that not only is she a publicly supported official, loyal to the Fidesz government, but that she is also part of the political group’s wider group of friends.

Vida was appointed to head the tax authority on June 28, 2010, shortly after Fidesz won its landslide election victory. On July 7, 2010, she sold her three-floor house.  Vida co-owned the 698-square meter home in an affluent part of Budapest with Tibor Halasi, who also held several prominent positions in state institutions and companies during the first Fidesz government, between 1998 and 2002.

Atlatszo.hu’s investigation has revealed that the buyer is in fact a familiar face: the construction company Közgép, owned by Lajos Simicska, whose dealings have been looked into by Atlatszo several times.

Simicska’s business empire is a well-known beneficiary of the Fidesz government. His firm has been outstandingly successful in winning every public procurement contest it entered. Simicska also held a top position during the first Fidesz government and is a close and old friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – even though recent events seem to indicate the two of them have had a falling out.

As a senior government employee, Vida has to file an annual wealth disclosure report, which is not public information. The sale of the house wasn’t necessarily in the scope of her first mandatory filing, but the price of the property had to appear in the next document. Whether she received an actual market price during the sale is for her direct boss, the economy minister to know, but even then only if he were to suspect Vida’s wealth increased through suspicious means. Given that the worst that could happen is that a ministerial inquiry could lead to an investigation by the tax authority, it seems that either way Vida has little to worry about.

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