New reporting in the Hungarian media has revealed further details of the investigation by the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF) into the suspect contracts awarded to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s son-in-law for public lighting projects.
The Hungarian government has so far refused to publish a report by OLAF in which it alleges that there were “serious irregularities” in the tendering process that was won by Elios, a company owned by the prime minister’s son-in-law, Istvan Tiborcz, to carry improvements to municipal lighting in several towns.
However according to 24.hu, those irregularities included collusion among Elios’ competitors in the tender process to offer prices higher than what Elios was offering. Having apparently priced themselves out of the tender, these competitors then reappeared as subcontractors for Elios.
Hungarian media reports that the competing companies even submitted their quotes for the projects on the same computer. Companies owned by acquaintances of Tiborcz also played a role in the tendering process, such as Sistrade Kft., led by Tiborcz’s friend and business partner, which was hired by the municipality to organise the tender.
Of the 35 contracts won by Tiborcz’s company OLAF has identified 17 where it believes fraud may have been involved. OLAF has recommended that Hungary repay EU 41 million euros remitted to it in EU development funds.
It’s not the first time the EU has asked for money back from Hungary following allegations of misuse in how it was spent by the government. Last year, the anti-fraud agency recommended that the EU seek a reimbursement of 283 million euros from Hungary after it found that the Budapest metro project for which it was intended was riddled with “serious irregularities, fraud and possible corruption.”
Hungarian prosecutors have confirmed that they have opened their own investigation into the Elios allegations.