BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A senior politician in Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party is under pressure from the opposition to withdraw his candidacy in April elections after newspaper reports on his role in a murky 2013 deal involving billions of euros to be invested in Hungarian bonds.
The reports have stirred up more trouble for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party, which is seeking a third consecutive term in office in the parliamentary elections on April 8.
Legal documents published in the daily Magyar Nemzet appear to show that Fidesz’s Lajos Kosa, a minister without portfolio in Orban’s government, was commissioned by an unnamed investor who came to him in January 2013 for advice on how to invest 4.35 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to put the money in Hungarian bonds.
That is equivalent to more than half the 2.4 trillion forints (7.7 billion euros) worth of bonds the government debt agency AKK plans to sell in 2018.
On Wednesday, the same newspaper reported that in a separate document later in 2013 Kosa agreed with the same investor that his mother would accept 2.6 million euros as a gift. It was not clear whether the money was actually transferred to her bank account.
Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the document, and Kosa was not immediately available to comment.
A Fidesz spokesman has not replied to Reuters questions.
In a reply to questions, the government press office referred to Kosa’s comments on Wednesday in which he said he would initiate police proceedings against the woman who Kosa said “carried out a series of frauds...and duped several people including me with a well-built story.”
Despite its domination of Hungarian politics, Fidesz has had its problems and electoral setbacks recently.
In January an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office revealed “serious irregularities” in projects co-financed by the European Union in Hungary and run by a company once co-owned by Orban’s son-in-law.
On Feb. 25, Fidesz unexpectedly lost a by-election to an opposition-backed independent.
Since then Orban has announced pre-election handouts to millions of families and pensioners in a bid to shore up support among voters.
The opposition Socialist party has called on Kosa to withdraw his candidacy in the election, in which he is seeking to be re-elected as a lawmaker in Debrecen, the second-biggest city in the country.
In a video posted on his Facebook page late on Tuesday, Kosa did not deny having signed a document about investing in the bonds. He said that in 2012 a Hungarian woman sought his advice on how best to invest her money, which she said she had inherited.
But Kosa said the investments never took place as the whole proposal turned out to be a scam.
“I never accepted a single penny, my conscience is clear ... and I believe today we already know this was a scam,” he said in the video. He has not yet reacted to the second document quoted by Magyar Nemzet on Wednesday.
The opposition Jobbik party is trying to set up a parliamentary committee to probe the matter, which they are calling “Kosa-gate.”
Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Hugh Lawson