The Budapest Metro Line 4 (Metro4) has for many years been a major project for the Budapest Transit Authority (BKV). Once finished, it will be the first fully automated metro line in Hungary. Totaling more than 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), it will pass from south Buda under the Danube River and continue deep into Pest. The project has been notorious, however, for its continuity. Critics of the project have considered its progress slow and its management incompetent; tell-tale signs of government corruption. Those in charge of the project say that a lack of resources and manpower are the true hindrances.
Miklós Hagyó is quite familiar with the project. From 2006 to 2010 he served as deputy mayor of Budapest, and in that capacity he was responsible for the political oversight of the city’s assets. In the trial of Hagyó and the other 14 associates of BKV, the prosecution claims that Hagyó “instructed” then chief executive of BKV Attila Antal to strike up a business agreement with the Hungarian consulting firm AAM, who has a strong public sector track record. The alleged purpose of the arrangement was the creation of an assessment report on Metro4. It intended to ascertain the quality and progress of the project’s “management, the administration, as well as quality assurance activities.” The prosecutors assert that Hagyó was required to present the report to the City Council’s Budget Committee.
At this point, everything seems fairly normal. As usual with the Hagyó Case, though, the abnormalities appear when one analyzes the prosecution’s accusations and methodology. Regarding the contract with AAM, the prosecution claims in the indictment on page 17 section 21 the services provided by AAM were “unnecessary,” and they caused BKV financial damages totaling 50,093,400 forints (nearly 230,000.00 USD at the time of writing).
Here arises the first question: By what means has the prosecution determined this contract to be unnecessary? There are most certainly no explanations provided in the original indictment. Neither has the prosecution explained thus far in the trial how this contract and the related work were unnecessary. Besides that simple question, the major refute to this assertion is that the prosecution admittedly neglected to seek consultation from any organization or individual who could be capable of accurately determining the necessity of the AAM contract.
On the other hand, Miklós Hagyó did provide ample evidence for the worthiness of the contract during his first in-court testimony. Perhaps most significantly, though, Hagyó indicated that while he scoured through tens of thousands of pages of collected evidence related to the AAM contract, he failed to find the actual Metro4 assessment report…Let me repeat that: The prosecution did not provide the assessment report of the Metro4 project in the case file. Mind you, this accusation that Hagyó “instructed” his subordinate to create a needless contract with AAM from which he could extort a significant sum of money was one of the most significant reasons Hagyó was forced to endure nine months of hard jail time prior to the trial. The AAM accusation was one of the biggest indicators that Hagyó was an Al Capone-like figure, dictating his less capable minions to do his dirty deeds. Indeed, this questionably “unnecessary” contract which Hagyó allegedly “instructed” his subordinate to create is a major catalyst for the entire trial. And the prosecution did not even include the report, the primary evidence, in the case file.
Other parts of Hagyó’s testimony strongly support the necessity of the AAM contract. For example, he included several quotes from then City Council members who reviewed the report produced by AAM. Here are a few excerpts:
“It is a very fair, well-prepared report. It also shows that we got a lot of information.”
– Former Minister of Transport Katona Kálmán
“We can thank both the referring Deputy Mayor [Miklós Hagyó] and László Becker [Metro4 Commissioner] that this material was prepared…”
- Dr. Gábor Dancs
There are more which attested to the necessity and value of the assessment report from AAM. They are available in this section of Hagyó’s testimony. He also systematically explains how he was not directly involved with the Metro4 project or AAM. According to him, the Metro Commissioner László Becker held the reigns for the project’s development. Hagyó claimed that he was merely the political representative of the project for the City Council.
Despite, these shortcomings in the validity of the prosecution’s case against Hagyó, the trial persists. When I inquire to those who follow the case how this is possible – how a trial can subsist when an overwhelming amount of evidence supports innocence of the defendants – the Hungarians just shrug their shoulders. “It’s Hungary. It’s normal,” is a typical response.