BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The United States has banned several Hungarian citizens from entry and alleged that they were engaged in or benefiting from corruption, prompting the Hungarian government to call for a show of evidence.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has clashed several times with the European Union and the United States over reforms that critics said harmed some foreign investors and weakened the system of checks and balances in the former Communist satellite.
“The U.S. Department of Justice has established an anti-kleptocracy unit to expand capacity to pursue cases in which ill-gotten wealth overseas is found to have a U.S. connection,” the U.S. Embassy in Budapest said on its website on Saturday.
“Certain Hungarian individuals have been found ineligible to enter the United States as the result of credible information that those individuals are either engaging in or benefiting from corruption,” the U.S. Embassy statement said.
It added that the action was not a “Hungary-specific measure” but part of an intensified clampdown on corruption. It said U.S. privacy laws prohibited the disclosure of the names of the individuals involved.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference that Budapest expected the U.S. government to present the evidence forming the basis of the allegations.
“When we talked with the U.S. Charge d’Affaires, he spoke about fewer than 10 Hungarian individuals and did not mention that these would include any government members,” Szijjarto said in response to a question.
“Based on the information at my disposal today, Hungarian government members were not approached by U.S. authorities in this case,” he said.
Szijjarto said the Hungarian government was not aware of any specific cases and planned no investigation of its own.
He added that Hungary, a landlocked central European country of 10 million people, and the United States remained strong allies and economic and defense cooperation between the two countries was excellent.
The Hungarian opposition Socialist party has convened parliament’s national security committee for Monday to discuss the matter. Szijjarto said he would meet U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in Washington on Tuesday.
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Stephen Powell