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One charged in corruption case that caused tensions with U.S.

Following up on a case that caused diplomatic tensions with the United States last year, Budapestʼs prosecutorʼs office brought charges against someone suspected of soliciting a bribe from U.S. cooking oil manufacturer Bunge, Tibor Ibolya, the chief prosecutor, said at a press conference on Friday, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

The suspect, referred to by his initials V.T., is said to have told Bunge that he had ties to Péter Heim, the head of Fidesz-friendly economic research institute Századvég. On the basis of his connections, V.T. allegedly promised that he could get the VAT on cooking oil lowered from 27% to 5% in exchange for a HUF 2 bln payoff, Ibolya said at the press conference. The chief prosecutor added that no ties between the suspect and the Századvég chief had been found.

The chief prosecutor said that, after hearing about the offer, the U.S. company broke all ties with the suspect, who has since been banned entry to the United States.

Last fall, the U.S. government used its anti-kleptocracy law to ban entry of six Hungarian officials on suspicion of corrupt practices, but it did not publish the names of those who were banned. The decision was apparently made by U.S. officials on the basis of a complaint by Bunge.

Former tax and customs office chief Ildikó Vida eventually admitted she was among those who had been banned, but she denied to any wrongdoing. The Hungarian government rejected claims of corruption at the tax office at the time, and said that the Americans were bringing spurious charges.