Inspectors from the European Commission (EC) carried out a surprise inspection of five Hungarian firms in March, including controversial lighting company Elios, on suspicion of illegal cartel activity, according to Hungarian news site index.hu.
According to index.huʼs sources, the inspectors appeared at all companies at the same time, confiscating electronic devices and looking through data carriers, trying to find proof of the firms coordinating with each other to carve up the market.
The inspection was part of a long-term investigation aiming to find out whether Elios illegally coordinated with other corporations during state tender processes, jeopardizing free market competition principles. In 2015, the EC’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) launched a probe into projects awarded to Elios - in most cases without competition - that were almost entirely funded by the EU.
Elios formerly belonged to Prime Minister Viktor Orbánʼs son-in-law István Tiborcz. Following its investigation, said to focus on the period when Tiborcz still owned the company, OLAF advised the EU to completely revoke the funds given to Elios after finding irregularities in Eliosʼs tender wins between 2011 and 2015.
Index.hu reports that in the event investigators determine that the companies were involved in cartel activities, the EC could impose hefty fines of up to 10% of each companyʼs revenues.