On March 8, 2015, oligarch Lajos Simicska conducted interviews with the moderate pro-government website Mandiner and the opposition television station ATV. During the interview with Mandiner, Simicska suggested that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán may have provided Hungary’s communist-era intelligence services with information, perhaps as an enlisted informant, about him and others when they served in the Hungarian People’s Army together in the city of Zalaegerszeg (western Hungary, pop. 60,000) in 1981 and 1982.
Simicska indicated in the interview that files proving Orbán’s collaboration with communist-era intelligence services could have been taken to the Soviet Union at the time of the System Change and that President Vladimir Putin of Russia might be using them to blackmail the prime minister.
Below is an Orange Files translation of Simicska’s March 8 interview with Mandiner (source in Hungarian). The interview opens with the Mandiner journalist responding to Simicska’s introductory statement that the origin of his conflict with Prime Minister Orbán extends back into the distant past.
Mandiner: How far back?
Simicska: If we want the story to be understandable, then a long way. I grew up in a very poor working-class family—you certainly know this. My father was secretary of the workers’ council in ’56 and they ruined him because of it. Physically as well. He was already a disability pensioner during my childhood. In elementary school, when we started preparing to become Pioneers, I told the teacher that I don’t want to be a Pioneer. “You are going to be just as fascist as your father.” That was the response. I then applied twice for admission to university without success until I was finally accepted at the ELTE law school the third time. However, before this they took me to be a solder in Zalaegerszeg. There later on Major Pallos ordered me to come in and see him. On his table there was a dossier ten centimeters thick. About me. That much had been collected by the time I was 22 years old. The major then read from the reports. They even knew things like what I had said during high-school class trips. I was a targeted individual in the army as well—this became clear from the details in other reports. He ended by telling me that I should watch out, because like this the university could be in jeopardy.
Mandiner: What did you say to that?
Simicska: “It’s not sure that everybody has to go to university.” This. Then I held a quarter-hour monologue for him about how I think that they are confusing their role—that it is not their task to break the spine of the future intelligentsia. The major was decent, he said that as long as he’s in charge that no harm will come to me. Then he added that I should nevertheless watch out for the counter-intelligence officer, Captain Major.
Mandiner: Could you deduce who informed on you?
Simicska: There was one, yes. I even told the guy afterwards, “Listen here, where do you get off . . . ” Of course I expressed myself much more coarsely than that. The person in question fell apart. He explained that I don’t understand, that he had no other choice. “What were you thinking? We are going to the same university! Haven’t you realized that nothing lasts forever? So that all of this becomes known?”
Mandiner: Who was this person?
Simicska: His name isn’t interesting. He’s already dead. He choked on a stuffed cabbage and suffocated.
Mandiner: Figuratively or concretely?
Simicska: Totally concretely.
Mandiner: Pure Tarantino. Didn’t you find out anything else from the details of the reports?
Simicska: Not from those. There was one person, however, who came to me and said “Listen Lajos, the situation is that I have to inform on you.” I said to this person: no hard feelings, it’s good that he told me, we’ll figure out together what he should write. I think that you have already realized who it was.
Mandiner: Viktor Orbán?
Simicska: Yes. Later when we demobilized, we were waiting around in a restaurant, already in civilian clothes and they came and got him. We went home on the demobilization train without Viktor there among us. All soldiers go out and party when they demobilize and so did we and then he suddenly showed up there. “What are you doing here?” He said that they wanted him to sign, but that he said no. I believed him for thirty years that it happened this way.
Mandiner: But no longer?
Simicska: I don’t know what to think anymore.
Mandiner: Have you asked to see the reports about you?
Simicska: I had somebody look after it. As far as I know, there is nothing about me. This is strange only because I saw the dossier with my own eyes at the age of 22, a heard with my own ears the reports on me from the major.
Mandiner: Many dossiers disappeared at the time of the System Change.
Simicska: In Budapest, yes. However, there is another city where everything could be.
Mandiner: Are you suggesting that the onetime reports of the current prime minister are there and that Putin is blackmailing him with this?
Simicska: If these existed and would come to light it would turn everything upside down here at home. This is certain. And I—after what has happened over the past year—I don’t know what to think about anybody anymore.
In his subsequent live telephone interview with ATV, Simicska reconfirmed the assertions he had made to Mandiner, declaring that “For 30 years I believed what Viktor Orbán told me, that he did not sign the statement to become an informant, though recently I have begun to have doubts. Yes, that is what I can say” (source in Hungarian).
In response to the ATV journalist’s question, “Why have you recently begun to have doubts, as you stated just now, that Viktor Orbán was telling the truth?” Simicska laughed and said “Well . . . well what can I tell you. I don’t really like what has been going on with the Russians over the past one or two years.”
On March 9, Prime Minister Orbán responded to Simicska’s allegations in a short interview with the website Hír24 (source in Hungarian): “The facts speak for themselves and all the information is available. I recommend that they study it. As for my opinion on this affair, I consider it to be regrettable that personal offense can take anybody to such depths. And otherwise I don’t see any point in putting on a siss-boom circus like this in Hungarian politics.”
Orbán was referring to communist-era state-security documents he released in April 2012 to support his claim that “They [intelligence services] tried to recruit me during the initial period of my service as a military conscript, but I rejected this. . .” (source A and B in Hungarian).
Simicska did not provide any evidence to support his suggestion that Prime Minister Orbán may have collaborated with communist-era intelligence services, though the opposition newspaper Népszava reported on March 10 that unnamed sources close to the oligarch say that he “is very serious about what he claims and possesses reliable information” (source in Hungarian).
However, even if Simicska cannot prove that Orbán served as an informant, his allegations have further undermined the political credibility of the once infallible prime minister and revived opposition calls for the Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party governing alliance to abandon its policy of maintaining restrictions on public access to communist-era intelligence files preserved at the State Security Services Historical Archives in Budapest (see Communist-Era Domestic Intelligence Files).
Moreover, Simicska is certain to take more damaging potshots at his former personal friend and political ally in the future. As the unnamed source close to the renegade oligarch told Népszava, “He has 35–40 years of ammunition.”