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Attorney general’s track record raises plenty of questions

Peter Polt, Hungary’s attorney-general has a rich professional history that has established him as an ally of the political elite, mainly the conservative side currently in power, but he also did favors for earlier governments. After his portrait, Atlatszo.hu presents a number of cases that he helped direct in questionable ways.

Peter Polt is Hungary’s attorney general, and as Atlatszo.hu reported before, during the top prosecutor’s term, there has been a considerable drop in investigations involving senior business and political individuals in relation to criminal charges.

As a source with insider knowledge informed us the prosecutor’s office is run based on a network of personal loyalties, which establishes a hierarchy that in turn results in a system where certain cases may get held up and trapped in a folder to gather dust indefinitely. The same network entails that instructions may arrive to do exactly that, make sure that a certain case never gets prosecuted, although these commands are never formal, never written down. However, they represent the operation of the office given that everyone working there fears for their livelihood. Falling in line is also the only viable way to secure a promotion and to advance through the ranks professionally. A prosecutor is formally an independent entity who has the chance to reject any instructions that may be deemed as infringing on professional autonomy. However, this never happens, as our sources told us.

Polt’s term has so far involved making corruption cases go away that date back to the ‘90s, the first government term of the Fidesz party currently in power, all the way to a reporter working for the far-right affiliated N1TV, who was taped kicking refugees, a story that was covered worldwide. While the prosecutors’ office raised misdemeanor charges against camera operator Petra Laszlo for her act of aggression, the idea that her actions were motivated by racist intentions was dismissed, just so that the radical-leaning voters would be satisfied. Although Polt’s office was most prolific in stifling financial-matters, it is also a common theme that his rule meant generous treatment for many known right-wing extremists who were targeted by the police.

Polt’s office was instrumental in preventing criminal consequences of the various corruption cases that lined the 1998-2002 Fidesz rule, even though the change in government afterwards led to investigations. The same applied for instances of handling confidential information, when certain individuals were made aware of where a new motorway would be built so they could acquire the land and claim the state compensation for appropriation.

However, as our earlier portrait shows, Polt was also generous to the political left. Several inquiries into the dealings of former socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany were dismissed. The argument was that although there may have been “errors” in how certain contracts that involve payouts from the treasury were drafted, there was no evidence of ill-will and thus there are no grounds for prosecution.

After 2010, when Polt came into office again after a few-year hiatus, similar cases started lining up. His office played a major role in blocking the proper investigation of MOL chief executive Zsolt Hernadi, who was charged with bribing the former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader to acquire local energy peer INA.

Polt’s office was also reluctant to pursue charges into the appropriation of tobacco store licenses, even though there was recorded evidence in the press that local officials distributed the lucrative business opportunities based on political and personal loyalties. He is also linked to the broker scandals, namely the Quaestor case that saw private investors suffer major losses because of fraud. One of the firm’s top officials, who happens to be dating Polt’s daughter, didn’t have to face any charges.

He even has more direct connections to everyday scandals, given that his wife is an executive at National Bank of Hungary and a member of the central bank’s foundations’ supervisors, who had to know about their covert fund management, which Atlatszo.hu has covered before. No surprise, the prosecutor’s office quickly denied investigation from the political opposition into the foundations’ matters

The prosecutors also failed to find anything in the alleged ties to organized crime by the pierce minister’s chief strategist Antal Rogan and also declined to prosecute a doctor closely related to a senior government-friendly politician, who was embroiled in a malpractice affair that ended in the patient dying. Unsurprisingly, politicians have been less than interested in scrutinizing the work performed by Polt’s office, since they are apparently satisfied. Out of the 199 members of parliament only 20 attended his House account of his department’s past five years.

Ultimately, Polt is the one man who can make every decision that can then never be challenged. If his office decides to kill a case, there is nowhere else left in the legal system to go. Also, he has legal impunity, the only case when he can be subjected to investigation, is if he asks for it himself.

Original article in Hungarian

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