Hundreds of millions of forints swallowed up by the decaying castle, the renovation has not even started
There was a promise of great luxury. A four-star castle-slash-hotel, a wellness center, a champagne cellar and a winery – the former Zichy castle, nestled in the center of Lengyeltóti, Somogy County, could have had it all. Alas, alack. The facility now stands shuttered and empty. Viktória Sziget Kft. won an EU grant of HUF240 million to transform it, but the company went bankrupt, and the project came to nothing. The municipality bought the property first; a one-man company bought it next, all for unknown purposes.
The Zichy Castle in Lengyeltóti, built at the turn of the 19th century, was always an awe-inspiring structure. It was used by the Marcali hospital during the Second World War, but it closed in 2006. The Marcali municipality sold the building to Viktória Sziget Kft. in 2007 for a total of HUF420 million, paid in several installments and partly through a loan. This is when the HUF520 million mortgage was likely registered. The company had big plans for the facility, but none of them materialized.
In 2010, the local paper wrote that the local government and residents knew next to nothing about the grandiose castle project. Ambitions included a four-star hotel, a wellness center, a champagne cellar and a winery.
In total, according to the paper, one company received more than HUF one billion in EU funding for the three projects. János Csánó told the paper that “a group of investors bought the former Zichy manor house in Lengyeltóti as a long-term investment in local resources, mainly for tourism.”
Viktória Sziget Kft was, according to Csánó, founded for the project.
“Currently, we are in a pre-implementation phase, with plans being optimized and expert opinions and market trends being analyzed,” said Csánó.
But did it work?
That is where the story last ended. Since then, however, it seems that minimal progress was made. The castle is not a hotel – it isn’t much of anything – and the company began liquidation in 2012. From 2008 until its dissolution, the company was owned by Poliview Capital Corp. of the Virgin Islands, which had, according to Opten, won an EU grant of HUF239 million once in 2010 – but there are no other applications on record.
According to independent MP Ákos Hadházy, this is not uncommon. Hadházy, who visited the site with us, noted that many problematically funded projects had no public data available.
We turned to the Treasury for information on applications, but they said they do not have data. What they did know is that the property was put up for auction during its liquidation.
According to the latest information (public tender No 3/2013), the property at Rákóczi Ferenc út 18, Lengyeltóti, nr 220/4, 10 3439 m2, labelled a ‘hospital’, with 2500-square-meters of buildings and its annexes to be demolished, was to be sold for HUF90 million.
Through a public data request, we found that a company registered for the auction with a net bid of HUF46 million, but the Lengyeltóti municipality had the right of first refusal – so they instead bought the land and the buildings for that amount.
The buyer was Antallapos Ltd., owned and managed by a 76-year-old woman from Csávoly.
According to Opten, the four-year-old company had a turnover of HUF493 million last year and a taxable profit of HUF206 million. According to the title deeds of the mansion, the Bács-Kiskun County Tax and Customs Directorate of the NAV registered an enforcement right of HUF14.3 million for the property in September this year.
It is difficult to believe, that the company is run by owner-manager Mrs István Zsidek – just last year, a woman of the same name had applied for and received subsidized heating material from the municipality. According to locals, there is no other resident with the same name in the 1,600-strong settlement. They believe the company is run by her relatives.
Apparently, an elderly woman in need of affordable heating decided to set up a company and then buy a mansion nearly 200km from the company’s headquarters for around HUF100 million. Difficult to swallow.
And further questions emerged when we visited the castle, and locals told us that the owner was a mystery man from Pécs – they had not yet met him in person.
Managers gone AWOL
We contacted the company to find out what they intend to do with the property, whether they are applying for EU or state funding, or whether they would rather sell the buildings. We also asked whether the company manager and owner is the same Mrs Zsidek who had applied for social heating in Csávoly in 2019. As of the publication of our article, the company has not responded.
The former owner, also the former managing director of Viktória Sziget Kft. did not respond either. János Csánó, currently tied to several companies, did not respond to either of our emails, addressed to two of his addresses. We would like to know why the project did not go ahead, whether any irregularities were committed and, if yes, what the outcome was.
Translated by Vanda Mayer. The original, Hungarian version of this story was written by Eszter Katus and can be found here. The company data were provided by Opten Kft. Cover photo: The mansion, once a hospital, has been abandoned for years, with only the grounds maintained.