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TI: Prosecution not free from political interference in Hungary

The de facto safeguarding of prosecution from political interference is not provided for in Hungary, Transparency International (TI) says in its August 20 publication entitled “Progress Report 2015: Assessing Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combatting Foreign Bribery”.

This is the 11th such report by TI, which investigates to what extent governments adhere to the OECD convention, and it shows that Hungary has not improved in the past three years. According to TI, Hungary needs both financial resources and specialized training for investigators on how to deal with foreign bribery.

Transparency International classified Hungary as a “Limited Enforcement” country in terms of corruption and bribery. In reference to the level of enforcement, TI uses the following categories: active enforcement, moderate enforcement, limited enforcement and little or no enforcement. Hungary was placed in the moderate enforcement category, along with France, The Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, South Africa, Portugal, Greece and New Zealand.

As bribery usually takes place behind closed doors, TI said it believes that whistleblowers can play a central role in uncovering corruption, and as such they must be protected from retaliation. In the majority of OECD Convention countries, the regulation and implementation of the protection of whistleblowers has significant inadequacies, the report says. According to TI, although Hungary has adopted new whistleblower protection laws, the law still has serious shortcomings.

Citing the report, Hungarian online portal origo.hu says that in Hungary, the “professional independence” of the police and the Prosecutor’s Office “is questionable”, as Chief Prosecutor, Péter Polt, has a “determinative influence” on investigations. Furthermore, the Chief Prosecutor can still hold his position following the end of his nine-year tenure past the age of 70 until a replacement is elected with a two-thirds majority, in other words indefinitely, online daily origo.hu writes.

“Although Hungary was among the first countries to sign the convention, this has not helped the fight against corruption in the past 15 years,” Miklós Ligeti, Legal Officer at TI, said. He added that Hungary did not uncover a single international corruption case in that time. According to the legal officer, if whistleblowers were protected “for real”, the country could see a “breakthrough”.