Rule of law

The in-house anti-corruption police unit is watching the Arton Capital burglary investigation

The investigation of the Arton Capital burglary is becoming more and more sensitive and complicated: the perpetrators are still at large and Atlatszo learned that the National Protective Service (NPS) is watching the investigation. NPS is the in-house anti-corruption team fighting against corrupt practices inside the police force and the secret services.

Arton Capital is one of the companies that was selling residency bonds to foreigners. Its Budapest offices were burglared in April, and a safe containing EUR 1,9 million was reported stolen. A computer with important data about the residency bond program was also reported missing.

We asked NPS (among other things) why they were watching the Arton investigation and how exactly they are getting involved, but their answer only included the fact that they had a legal basis to do so and that the law that regulates their activities does not include the word ‘watching’ an investigation thus they are unable to make sense of our questions.

A little more than a month ago we wrote about the fact that the investigation was at a standstill at the time and that the special unit formed to investigate the case is worried about the political connections of the case. One of our sources had told us back in August that police are not comfortable investigating this politically sensitive case and they do not mind if they do not need to dig too deep into it or if they do not catch the burglars.

At the same time, more and more investigators started to suspect self-burglary by Arton in order to be able to account for the EUR 1,9 million. The theory of self-burglary becomes even stronger if we consider that investigators have not found any links to known burglar gangs or to criminals specializing in breaking into safes.

Even at the beginning of the investigation, it was obvious that if the offices were genuinely burglarized, those committing the crime must have had insider information. Also, it is very strange for such a company to have EUR 1,9 million in cash in their offices because residency bond buyers pay for the bonds and services via bank transfers.

Some police sources and former investigators said that the professionalism of the burglars suggests that the burglary must have been carried out by an intelligence agency. However, other sources said that an intelligence agency would have wanted to keep the operation a secret and that the publicity would have worked against their aims.

The Hungarian residency bond program was highly controversial: Those who wished to take part in the program paid EUR 300,000 and then are allowed to apply for a residence permit in Hungary. The bonds were not sold directly by the government of Hungary but by intermediary companies – Arton Capital is one of these.

This was a very lucrative business for these intermediaries that are mostly owned by offshore businesses: they earned at least EUR 29,000 on every bond they sell. The residency bond program was started in 2013 and because of the many controversies surrounding it, it was ended this year.

During the three years of the program, Arton and the other intermediary companies made more than HUF 100 billion off the residency bond program.

Written by Brigitta Csikász

You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.

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