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Minister speaks of “shadow secret service”

The minister responsible for Hungary's secret service said a security firm was suspected of using illegal means to collect data on leading figures in business and politics.

The Socialist (MSzP) minister, György Szilvásy, told state television the company, which he did not identify, operated as a “shadow secret service” and politicians of the opposition party Fidesz were in contact with it.

Szilvásy said the suspicions were based on taped telephone conversations which he had handed over to parliament's national security committee.

“There is evidence of the operation of this octopus-like network, and (evidence) to justify the suspicion that they used unlawful means,” Szilvásy said.

He said the firm collected data on Economy Minister Gordon Bajnai as part of a background survey.

Szilvásy said there was no evidence opposition politicians did anything unlawful but they gave work to the firm.

Fidesz deputy faction leader Róbert Répássy told Reuters two former secret service ministers from the party had contact with the security firm, but the tapes showed these were informal discussions and the politicians did not break any laws.

Earlier this month, police received a report from the National Security Office and subsequently launched an investigation into a suspected attempt to gain unauthorized access to confidential data.

In a statement at the time, the police said they conducted house searches and seized computers, servers and data recording equipment.

News reports said the company whose computers were seized was a private security firm named UD Zrt, owned by two former secret service officers.

The firm had also worked for businesses owned by Sándor Csányi, chairman and chief executive of Hungary's leading bank OTP, and operated servers that stored business data of several of Csányi's firms.

In a statement on Thursday, Csányi said he had filed a complaint with the police and the chief prosecutor's office, saying it may have been illegal to seize servers containing data on his businesses.

“Sándor Csányi wants to stress that he complained (to police) not because of the seizure of servers of UD Zrt, but because of the seizure of servers which were the private property of his firms and were stored by UD Zrt as an operator,” he said in the statement sent to Reuters.

UD Zrt told the news agency MTI that allegations the firm was linked to unlawful data collection were unfounded. (Reuters)