PM Orban’s private jet and military plane flights are surrounded by secrecy
Viktor Orban worked very hard during his years in politics to present himself as an ordinary guy, just someone next door living a simple life. His Facebook page shows pictures of him drinking pálinka, Hungary’s favorite home-made spirit and cooking traditional sausages. The image of Orban as the average Hungarian was hurt last year when Atlatszo revealed that Orban has been using a luxury private jet that is available only for the super-rich.
However, he is using not only that plane but many other non-commercial aircraft as well. Some of those are owned by the Hungarian military, another by the largest Hungarian private bank. Here is a list of the non-commercial airplanes the Hungarian prime minister has used last year according to our research.
Two Airbus A319s owned by the Hungarian military
The two Airbuses were delivered to the Hungarian military last February. When they were presented to the press, then-minister-of-defense István Simicskó said that the planes were ’not government aircraft’ and stressed that they will be used by the military.
However, soon after the two planes arrived in Hungary, Viktor Orban started to regularly use them. He has used the Airbus registered under the number 605 to fly to Israel, Montenegro, Moscow (Russia) and Salzburg (Austria). He used the one registered as 604 to fly to Kyrgyzstan, Prague (Czech Republic) and Zagreb (Croatia).
In November 2018 Atlatszo reported that Orban used one of the Airbuses to spend a night at Milan’s La Scala and attend an opera event.
The prime minister and his wife attended a show in Milan’s famous opera house, La Scala, on November 15. It was disclosed neither on Orban’s Facebook page nor through his press secretary what means of transport the couple used to travel there.
The Austrian private jet Orban used to travel to soccer matches
Atlatszo reported in September that Orban used a Bombardier Global 6000 to fly to Bulgaria on July 25 to attend a match of his favorite team, MOL-Vidi. Atlatszo managed to take a photo of Orban stepping out of the plane in Budapest on his way home. The jet is registered in Austria as OE-LEM, and it is worth 53 million euros.
The owner of the jet is hidden; it is operated by a company in Austria.
Orban’s spokesman told the press that the flight was a gift from the owner of MOL-Vidi, billionaire businessman István Garancsi. When Orban himself was asked about the flight in Parliament, his response was the following:
I have been traveling like this for thirty years and I am going to travel like this next week as well!
Even though the Hungarian government is stressing that OE-LEM is somehow connected to István Garancsi, Atlatszo found many links between the plane and Lőrinc Mészáros, the richest man in Hungary and Orban’s childhood friend from his home village, Felcsút.
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.
The private jet that identifies itself as a government aircraft
A video posted to Viktor Orban’s Facebook page shows his arrival to Berlin onboard Hungarian OTP Bank’s airplane (registered as HA-LKZ) on July 4, 2018, to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In addition, the jet appeared in several places where the prime minister was attending soccer matches concurrently.
Registered as HA-LKZ, the Dassault Falcon 900LX aircraft belongs to OTP-owned Air-Invest Ltd. Its hourly operating cost is HUF 1.1-2.4 million – depending on its destination and the number of hours flown. It can accommodate 12-14 persons in luxury conditions. The list price of this type of aircraft is around HUF 11 billion.
The most peculiar detail about this jet is that it regularly identifies its airline as ‘Government of Hungary.’ Normally, the airline rubric is either a commercial airline (Ryanair, Wizzair, Qatar Airways, etc.) for regular flights or, in case of private jets, the company operating the aircraft. Accordingly, for HA-LKZ the airline should be identified as Air-Invest Ltd.
The prime minister has probably flown aboard Hungarian bank OTP’s private jet (worth approx. HUF 11 billion) to soccer matches and official meetings several times. There is a video posted to Viktor Orban’s Facebook page showing his arrival to Berlin onboard this airplane (registered as HA-LKZ) to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The secret military business jet registered as a civilian aircraft
Viktor Orban attended the inauguration of the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsanaro on January 1, 2019. He arrived in Brazil the day before.
According to flight tracker websites Orban used a Dassault Falcon 7X owned by the Hungarian military, registered as HA-LKX.
The Hungarian military announced last year that it bought a Dassault Falcon 7X. Even though it is a business jet, military leaders claimed that the plane would be used for military purposes.
It was revealed by zoom.hu, a news site shut down right before Christmas, that the Hungarian military actually bought not one but two Falcons. The second is also owned by the military but it is registered and used as a civilian aircraft.
The flights are not a problem, the lack of transparency is
All over the world, it is completely normal for a prime minister or government officials to use government- or military-owned aircraft for official trips.
The controversial aspect about these flights of the Hungarian prime minister is the secrecy and lies that surround them.
The Hungarian military has been constantly saying that the two Airbuses and the two Falcons are not government aircraft but military planes, used for military purposes. The latter is used as a justification to keep important details a secret: we cannot know how much the planes cost and how much it costs to operate them.
When asked about Orban’s flights aboard these planes, the military says that those flights are parts of the training of the pilots.
There are even more controversies that surround Orban’s flights in luxury private jets. His flights to soccer matches, for example, are not official but private visits. However, according to his official declaration of wealth, Orban does not have enough money to pay for such a luxury.
The flights to the soccer matches are, most probably, not paid by taxpayers. They are ’gifts’ from people, who can afford them. This was actually the explanation given to the public by the government when asked about Orban’s summer trip to Bulgaria on board OE-LEM.
The problem here is that a flight on a luxury jet, if given as a gift, is supposed to be included in Orban’s wealth declaration. And these flights are even more controversial because they are provided by billionaire businessmen who often bid for high-value state-funded business and end up winning public tenders.
The problem, in short, is that nothing about these flights is transparent. No government agency or press office is willing to tell us how much these flights cost and who is footing the bill.
Written by Katalin Erdélyi
You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.
Cover photo: Viktor Orban stepping out of OE-LEM on July 25, 2018.