Hungarian government elite, including Orban, uses luxury yacht and private jet registered abroad
Atlatszo has been tracking two luxury vehicles all summer and, in doing so has documented where the leadership of the governing party and their business partners spent their summer vacations. While we were following the route of a yacht crisscrossing European waters and tracking a private jet, we managed to take photos of many members of the Hungarian government and also businessmen closely connected to the governing Fidesz party. Prime minister Viktor Orban himself used the private jet which crossed path with a yacht several times this summer.
At the beginning of July, merce.hu published a photo of Lőrinc Mészáros, Viktor Orban’s close friend. In the photo, Hungary’s second richest man was seen on board a luxury yacht called Lady Mrd in the Italian port of Porto di Ischia. Hungarian audiences had seen photos of Mészáros vacationing onboard a yacht before, so the photo did not get much attention.
However, by that time we had been following a private jet for months so learning about another luxury vehicle used by the Hungarian governing elite was a valuable piece of information.
From that moment on, we have been tracking the yacht as well and have discovered that the ship and the airplane crossed paths several times during the summer.
Lady Mrd, a luxury yacht worth 21 million euros
Lady Mrd was built in 2015 in the Benetti factory in Italy as one of their Benetti Crystal 140 luxury models. It is 42 meters long, 9 meters wide and can accommodate 10 guests who are served by a crew of seven.
The luxury yacht was up for sale last year for 20.9 million euros. The yacht was originally called Lady M and registered in the Cayman Islands. After its sale, it was renamed Lady Mrd and registered in Malta in January 2018. It is registered as a ’pleasure craft’ which means that it cannot be rented out; only the owner and his or her guests are allowed to use the yacht.
According to the Maltese registry of ships Lady Mrd is owned by a Maltese company called L&L Charter Ltd. This company is owned by PKF Fiduciaries International Ltd. which is a Maltese company specializing in being a proxy for other companies: it manages more than two hundred offshore companies. It is either their owner or it is serving as their director.
PKF Fiduciaries International Ltd. is owned by two Maltese residents called George Mangion and Marianne Mangion. However, it is highly unlikely that they are the real beneficiary owners of all these companies.
The connections of L&L Charter in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database
The most interesting piece of data about Lady Mrd and the owners is that the exact same offshore companies and the exact same people owned the luxury yacht Artemy. Lőrinc Mészáros was photographed by Hungarian weekly Magyar Narancs in 2016 on board of Artemy.
Getting back to Lady Mrd: ever since its registration in Malta the vessel has been crisscrossing the Mediterranean, stopping in different places including Italy and Croatia. In the past few months, Lady Mrd crossed paths with another mysterious vehicle several times – a private jet that we have been tracking for months.
OE-LEM, a private jet worth 53 million euros
In March 2018 a brand new Bombardier Global 6000 luxury private jet arrived in Vienna, straight out of the Montreal factory. The jet was registered in Austria and got the registration code OE-LEM. Its owner is unknown; it is operated by International Jet Management GmbH, an Austrian company specializing in operating business jets.
This company was known in Hungary before: it also operated a much smaller private jet registered in Austria with the code OE-IKZ. Investigative TV program Célpont and website Zoom.hu took photos of Lőrinc Mészáros with the plane in January 2018.
Even though the jet is registered in Austria and it is operated by an Austrian company, it is almost always parked at Budapest Airport. This is where it takes off and where it lands. It hardly ever flies to Vienna – to the airport where it officially belongs.
In the past few months, the private jet took off from Budapest Airport several times and landed at destinations where Lady Mrd was anchored at the time.
This is an extremely expensive jet. A brand new Bombardier Global 6000 costs 53 million euros (60 million US dollars) and, depending on how many hours it spends in the air and where it flies, it costs 5000-10000 dollars an hour to operate it.
The jet is 30 meters long and can fly 17 passengers. This is what the interior of the jet looks like:
Viktor Orban himself used the private jet
The prime minister himself has used the luxury jet: he used it to fly Bulgaria on July 25 to watch the Videoton-Ludogorec soccer game. Orban returned to Budapest around midnight the same day and Atlatszo took photos of him leaving the jet.
Viktor Orban leaves the jet OE-LEM at Budapest Airport, July 25, 2018. Photo: Atlatszo / Daniel Nemeth
Viktor Orban descends from the jet OE-LEM at Budapest Airport, July 25, 2018. Photo: Atlatszo / Daniel Nemeth
Viktor Orban outside the jet OE-LEM at Budapest Airport, July 25, 2018. Photo: Atlatszo / Daniel Nemeth
This was not the only time when the private jet flew to a destination at the time of an important soccer match. On June 21 it flew to Nizhny Novgorod in Russia, on the day of the Argentina-Croatia match during the World Cup.
On July 15 the jet flew to Moscow. This was the day of the World Cup final. Hungarian press reported that day that the Hungarian prime minister watched the game in Moscow and that he met Russian president Vladimir Putin as well.
The yacht and the jet crossed paths several times
According to official flight and maritime data, the above-mentioned private jet took off many times from Budapest and landed exactly where Lady Mrd was anchored several times. Most of these spots are popular vacation destinations: Bari, Split, Pula, Rijeka and Venice, among others. One time the yacht and the private jet were both in Tivat, in Montenegro. Tivat is the home of an exclusive luxury port for the super rich.
We visualized the routes of the yacht and the jet below. Red shows you where the jet flew and black shows you the yacht’s route:
Drone video of the yacht’s guests
On August 16 the yacht Lady Mrd was in Croatia, going from Brijuni to Opatija. Atlatszo, using a drone, managed to take a video of its arrival and its guests. They were apparently unhappy with seeing the drone: one of them covered his face with his sunglasses. Another tried to hide his mustache while a third man was waving at the camera, trying to chase it away.
The three men on our video are: Róbert Homolya, president of the Hungarian state railway company (MÁV); businessman László Szíjj and government commissioner Ernő Kovács.
Róbert Homolya, Ernő Kovács and László Szíjj on board of Lady Mrd in Opatija, August 16, 2018. Photo: Átlátszó / Dániel Németh
Róbert Homolya, Ernő Kovács and László Szíjj in the port of Opatija, August 16, 2018. Photo: Átlátszó / Dániel Németh
Róbert Homolya was deputy chief of the agency responsible for distributing EU funds in 2010-2012. After that he went on to work for the Prime Minister’s office. In 2017 he was appointed deputy minister for transport policy. In August 2018 he was appointed CEO of the Hungarian National Railway (MÁV).
According to website 24.hu the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has been investigating Homolya since 2010. According to the press reports Homolya was an advisor in eight EU-funded projects where the funding decision was made by the National Development Agency (NFÜ). Homolya was a deputy chief of the agency at the time, which, according to European law, is a conflict of interest. The contracts in question are worth 3.3 billion Hungarian forints; this is the amount that Brussels might ask Hungary to refund.
The case is very similar to the so-called Elios case where the prime minister’s son-in-law profited from EU-funded street light reconstruction projects.
László Szíjj is a business partner of Lőrinc Mészáros. Szíjj’s most significant company is a called Duna Aszfalt. It is a construction company that has won public tenders worth hundreds of billions of forints. Companies connected to Szíjj won public tenders worth 1.8 billion euros (606.5 billion forints) in 2017; 44% of the funding for these projects came from the European Union.
The man with the mustache, Ernő Kovács was mayor of the Southern town of Tiszakécske between 1998 and 2014. In 2014 Viktor Orban appointed Kovács to be government commissioner for Bács-Kiskun county; his appointment was extended by another four years in July 2018.
VIPs in a black van
On the day after we took photos of the three men in Opatija, the private jet OE-LEM took off from Budapest and flew to Rijeka. It spent an hour there, then it returned to Budapest.
Lady Mrd spent the next day without any guests in the port of Rijeka, but on August 20 the crew suddenly became busy. They were cleaning up and there was such a lot of coming and going that it was obvious that they were expecting important guests.
On the same day, on August 20 the private jet took off from Budapest and flew to Rijeka. It returned to Rijeka soon after. After it landed in Rijeka a black car and a black van arrived at the port where Lady Mrd was anchored.
CCTV cameras in the port recorded the arrival of a man whose moves and figure resemble Lőrinc Mészáros. He and his guests greeted the crew, took off their shoes and boarded the yacht. Lady Mrd left the port soon after.
In the following few days the luxury yacht stopped in the ports of Opatija, Mali Losinj and Brijuni, then returned to Rijeka on August 24. The CCTV camera in the port recorded a man resembling Lőrinc Mészáros on the top floor of the yacht, hugging a woman.
On the following day, August 25, the private jet flew to Rijeka and returned to Budapest immediately after. A vacationer in the port took a photo of a black van in front of Lady Mrd on the same day and people can be seen walking off the yacht.
The private jet was not idling between the two flights to Rijeka: it flew to Malaga, Spain on August 15 and returned there again on August 22. It spent about an hour in Malaga on both days, then it returned to Budapest.
On August 22, Atlatszo took photos of the people exiting the small jet terminal of Budapest Airport, right after OE-LEM landed. One of Lőrinc Mészáros’s daughters, Beatrix, was among them, as well as Gábor Végh, owner of soccer club ZTE.
Beatrix Mészáros has top positions in several of the companies owned by her father. She is also co-owner of Fejér-B.Á.L. Zrt., a company owned by the Mészáros children that wins more and more valuable public tenders.
Beatrix Mészáros exiting the small jet terminal on August 22, 2018 Photo: Átlátszó / Dániel Németh
Gábor Végh exiting the small jet terminal on August 22, 2018, while Beatrix Mészáros is making a call Photo: Átlátszó / Dániel Németh
Végh gave an important gift to the football academy in Orban’s home village: the statue of legendary soccer player Ferenc Puskás. The statue was unveiled by Orban himself in April 2014.
A company owned by Végh, Pharos ’95 is also closely connected to Felcsút, the home village of the prime minister. Pharos ’95 built soccer fields for the Felcsút football academy. It is also connected to the company that Mészáros has been long known for, sharing a site with Mészáros és Mészáros Kft.
Pharos ‘95 Kft. has been winning public tenders connected to stadium building for years, but most recently it managed to expand its business. It won a public tender for a castle reconstruction project and also won a public tender for new soccer fields, as announced by the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ).
Several trips across Europe
In the past few months, the jet flew to several other destinations as well, including Lisbon, Crete, Malta, Milan, Münich, Prague, Sicily and Faro in Portugal.
On August 30, it flew to Malaga, returning to Budapest within an hour, then flying to Vienna. It stayed there until September 17, when it flew first to Budapest, then to Rijeka.
Lady Mrd had been anchored in Rijeka since August 25, and there was a flurry of activity around the yacht around that time. After OE-LEM landed in Rijeka, a black van arrived at Lady Mrd. The yacht then left the port and the jet took off for Budapest.
The yacht visited the ports of Opatija, Mali Losinj and Cres, then it returned to Rijeka on September 20. On the same day the jet flew to Rijeka and soon after returned to Budapest.
In the graphic above you can see all the routes of the yacht and the flights of the jet. Red stands for the jet, black stands for the yacht.
Written by Katalin Erdélyi — Photos and videos: Dániel Németh — Data visualization: Attila Bátorfy
English version: Anita Kőműves; editing: Clare Humphreys. You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.