Árpád Habony has served as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán‘s chief strategic adviser since 2006 (source in Hungarian). Prime Minister Orbán has never, however, acknowledged that Habony serves in this unofficial capacity, stating in 2015 that “nobody of that name appears on any state payroll” (source in Hungarian).
Habony is regarded as the architect of many of the Orbán government‘s main policies, notably the 2013 public utility-fee cuts and the 2015 anti-migration campaign (source in Hungarian; see Hungary and the Great Migration).
Following the victory of the Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party alliance in Hungary’s 2014 National Assembly election, the opposition media has focused increasing attention on Habony’s luxurious lifestyle, notably his expensive clothing, handbags and vacations (source A, B and C in Hungarian). At the same time, Habony’s company and sole demonstrable source of income had generated only 128,000 forints in total income in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 (source in Hungarian).
Habony reported to Hungary’s National Tax and Customs authority in 2016 that he had derived most of his income between 2009 and 2013 via loans from Orbán government commissioner and oligarch Andy Vajna and former Orbán government security adviser András Tomba (source in English).
Generating Revenue through State Advertising
In April 2015, Habony and Tibor Győri, Prime Minister Orbán’s former legal adviser, founded the company Modern Media Group, which began publishing the free weekly newspaper Lokál in Budapest the following month (source in Hungarian). Lokál generated an estimated 1.5 billion forints (4.8 million euros) in revenue via the publication of advertisements for state-owned companies, notably lottery company Szerencsejáték and the Hungarian Electrical Works (Magyar Villamos Művek), during the newspaper’s first year of operation (source in Hungarian).
Lokál began appearing daily in June 2016 (source in Hungarian). Former Orbán ally Lajos Simicska has therefore sought to sell his free Budapest daily newspaper Metropol, which generated billions of forints in revenue through the publication of advertising for state-owned companies before his dramatic split with the prime minister in February 2015 (source in Hungarian; see also The Fury of an Oligarch Scorned).
Danube Business Consulting
In April 2015, Habony and prominent U.S. Republic Party political consultant Arthur J. Finkelstein founded a company called Danube Business Consulting in London (source in Hungarian).
Acknowledgement of Government Role
In December 2014, Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár and Fidesz National Assembly caucus Chairman Antal Rogán acknowledged for the first time that Habony serves as a government adviser.
Lázár told the television station RTL Klub, “I know Árpád Habony, we meet regularly. I ask for his opinion on certain questions, though I have no advisory or official relationship with him. I consult with him based on personal acquaintanceship. I have no knowledge that he has any contract with the government” (source in Hungarian).
However, Prime Minister Orbán and members of his entourage have remained reluctant to discuss Habony’s advisory role. In February 2016, for example, government Spokesman Zoltán Kovács abruptly ended a press conference in order to avoid responding to a question regarding Habony (source in Hungarian).
On June 6,2016, Jobbik National Assembly representative János Volner asked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “Who is Árpád Habony?” Prime Minister Orbán responded by reading the following statement from a paper: “I did not find the name of the person in question on the payroll of a single government institution or state company, therefore I am not qualified to answer the question” (source in Hungarian).
Last updated: June 7, 2016.