Editorial: Charging the impervious

Issues

From the Budapest Business Journal print edition: If the very serious allegations made by a former auditor of the tax authority were only partially true, it would mean the biggest corruption charge leveled against the reining government. Still, if there are to be any consequences, somebody should actually care.

András Horváth, who earlier worked in investigating cross-border tax frauds at the state tax and customs authority NAV, claims that for years, several market-leading retail companies have established a daily practice of dodging taxes with the active assistance of the state and its authorities.

According to Horváth, the total of the damages he claims to have uncovered comes to HUF 1.7 trillion, more than 5.5% of the country’s gross domestic product. Opposed to the widespread practice and implicitly accepted notion that small businesses all cook the books to some extent so they can survive, these accusations involve multinational firms. Serious allegations, and serious amounts involved.

NAV refuted the story and said it had conducted a thorough screening of its practices during the course of a single weekend (!) and found everything to be in order. It also pressed charges against Horváth.

The political opposition pounced on the testimonial as a means of finding a story, a solid case that could be used against the Fidesz government to illustrate to the electorate the corrupt and captured nature of the state led by Viktor Orbán.

Based on all the stories so far, they’ll have a tough time making anything stick and an even tougher time using any proof to shake the resilient confidence of Fidesz’ base.

Today, it may seem like successive corruption cases, arrests and court hearings were the main reason why the Socialists were crushed at the 2010 general elections. They played a role in further undermining the party’s character, even though the mismanagement of the country before that was more than enough for disaster at the polls.

Fidesz and Orbán have found the magic recipe against all such cases, and the conspicuous public procurements, the farmland allocation, the tobacco shops and the cash registers did nothing but get those already in opposition riled up, only to be completely ignored by the general public.

The same political weapons do different degrees of damage to each side, depending on the solidity of the ranks as well as the ground they stand on. At the heart of the matter is the sad realization for the outside observers that, deep down, nothing has changed in the past nearly four years.

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