Company owned by Orban’s son in law made a billion forint on taking care of permits for stalling hotel construction project

István Tiborcz’s company did not have to lay a single row of bricks, yet a hotel investment project in the Danube Bend (Visegrád) brought them a billion forint profit. The Prime Minister’s son in law acquired the land and the half finished hotel building in 2017. The project was originally started by an Irish company with a multi-billion forint loan from a state-owned Hungarian bank, MKB. The company went bankrupt following the economic crisis and later the bank sold the claim and as part of it, the hotel project, located in the middle of a protected forest.  The hotel building is now owned by a capital fund connected to László Szíjj, a businessman who has benefited from many public contracts and who is currently the fourth richest Hungarian according to Forbes.  Our drone video shows how business circles close to the government are getting into position not only around Lake Balaton, but also along the scenic locations by the  river Danube.

It was revealed recently that a large dividend was taken from Hotel VSGRD kft, the company owning the hotel project in Visegrád. The owner of this company is Longoria Holding Zrt., the majority owner of which is István Tiborcz’s BDPST Zrt., while the minority owner is Lexan Holding Zrt. This latter belongs to Zsolt Komonczi who is also the CEO of several companies owned by Norbert Szivek, the former head of the state-owned Hungarian Asset Management Inc.

Based on company court data, calculated that HOTEL VSGRD Kft. had an income of 3,65 billion  HuF and a profit of around 1,21 billion HuF (ca. 3,5 million EUR) from selling the hotel project in March 2019 to a capital fund (Minerva V50) owned by Mr Szíjj.

László Szíjj is the beneficial owner of the Malta offshore company in posession of luxury yachts used by the Hungarian government elite

Over the last two years, we have written several times about the fact that the Austrian-registered luxury private jet with the Austrian registration OE-LEM, also used by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has flown to the Croatian coast of the Adriatic exactly where the Maltese-registered luxury yacht, Lady MRD was located.

We asked the majority owner, BDPST Zrt. what changes took place in the building and the plot during the two years that they were the owners of the property through HOTEL VSGRD Kft. We also sought the opinion of the management of the company on the allegations of the article cited above.

BDPST Zrt.’s answer came via a communications company,  Goodwill Communications Tanácsadó Kft., which also participates in multi-billion forint government communication campaigns.

The government of Hungary spent €216 million on propaganda and fearmongering in the past 8 years

The Hungarian government spent 69.3 billion Hungarian forints (approximately €216 million at today’s exchange rate) on propaganda and fearmongering in the past eight years. Our infographics also reveal that taxpayer money spent on spreading these messages is growing every year.

According to the reply we received, their added value to the project was the involvement of international consultants, the development of a development concept and the acquisition of the necessary permits. They did not deny that Hotel VSGRD Kft. paid a dividend of more than HUF 1 billion (HUF 1,075,000,000) to the owner, Longoria Holding Zrt. after the sale of the half-finished hotel.

Guarding the building could not have cost BDPST Zrt very much, at least when we were filming there we saw a single guard on the construction site. And some of the investment permits had already been granted when constructions began. An application for an environmental permit was submitted by the company, but not properly, so it did not become anything at the time. This was later requested and received by the next (current) owner, László Szíjj’s capital fund, as we reported on this in January.

Egy kapavágás nélkül, az engedélyek megszerzésével kerestek Tiborczék egymilliárdot a félkész visegrádi hotelen from on Vimeo.

The reclassification of the area (at the expense of the protected green area) was  indeed achieved by BDPST Zrt. and the building permit was also obtained by this company. A government decree and a development project of the region proposed by the Prime Minister himself also helped improve his son in law’s BDPST Zrt’ market value.

A year ago we wrote about a community forum held in this town, Visegrád, where the locals complained about the new building regulations of the settlement, claiming that it punishes the local residents with draconian severity, while it is lenient with the companies and investments.

Viktor Orbán himself proposed in 2017 to the then mayor to submit a detailed urban development plan. This is how the “Blooming Visegrád” program was started in the same year as when the company owned by the Prime Minister’s son became the majority owner of the hotel project.

The 12,978 square meter plot where the unfinished hotel  is located was sold by the Visegrád local government in 2004 for a total of nearly one hundred million forints (HUF 97,335,000). According to a council document the value of the property was HUF 3.7 billion in March last year, when the owner Longoria Holding Zrt. sold it to László Szíjj’s capital fund.

The area is a nature reserve and the town of Visegrád is on the tentative list of world heritage sites of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Outside of nepotism, this case also highlights the concerning practice of placing construction projects ahead of environmental protection in Hungary.

In Hungary, environmental protection is crippled so as not to hinder economic development

There are only four countries in the world that do not have an independent Ministry of the Environment: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania, Hungary – stated Tímea Szabó, the leader of the Parliamentary faction of Párbeszéd Magyarország, one of the opposition parties, in the debate of the proposed climate emergency law.

The original, more detailed Hungarian version of this piece was written by Gabriella Horn. English translation by Gabriella Horn. Cover photo, drone video: Dániel Németh