The Budapest Capital Court begins today a preparatory session of a corruption trial in which French railway equipment maker Alstom paid an alleged EUR 8.45 million (HUF 2.8 billion at current exchange rates) in bribes to officials of the then Socialist-Free Democrat government to secure the contract, conservative daily Magyar Nemzet reports.
Charges are being brought against four people who either initiated or mediated the bribes and a single person on the receiving end, former confidante of then Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, only identified as Károly T.
Hungary issued a tender for the delivery of trains for the capital’s new, under construction metro line 4 in 2005. According to the prosecution, Alstom officials set up three companies in Denmark and Austria, through which they paid EUR 8.45 million to Hungarian government and municipality officials. One of them, Károly T., was also the person to whom Gyurcsány transferred control of his companies upon becoming prime minister.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) began investigating irregularities of the metro tender in 2012 and in its 2016 November findings advised that Hungarian authorities begin their own investigation. As a result, Hungary’s Central Investigative Prosecution leveled corruption charges against five people this April.
Most defendants have only been identified with first name and initial. Hungarian law does not allow the publication of full names until convicted. They are – besides Károly T. – Vilmos W., then CEO of Alstom Hungária, U.S. citizen Shahbad Z. and Austrian citizen Kyrill L., as well as the only person identified by his full name, Géza Terner, who has fled justice (thus the full-name identification) to Israel and is being tried in absentia.
Title image: Alstom carriages of Budapest metro line 4 (Magyar Nemzet/Máté Bach)