Court says Lázár must explain travel bills

Tourism

The Municipal Court of Budapest made an unappealable decision that the Prime Minister’s Office is required to publish details about Cabinet Chief János Lázár’s expenditures on accommodation during three official trips in 2012 and 2013, Hungarian investigative online portal direkt36.hu reported yesterday.

The decision was made on the basis of a suit filed by a journalist who says he quit under duress after reporting on Lázár's extravagent spending on these trips.

During the three trips, Lázár spent approximately HUF 2 mln on hotel bills – HUF 920,000 in England, HUF 469,000 in Switzerland and HUF 582,000 in Italy – figures that are well above the amount his official peers spent on average on such trips, according to reports.

In 2014, Hungarian news portal origo.hu reported on Lázár's trips. Not long after origo.hu’s report was published, the portal editor was forced to resign, and journalist András Pethő and other staff members resigned in sympathy with him. Pethő and other critics claimed that Lázár put pressure on origo.hu's owners, Magyar Telekom, to have the editor fired, but Lázár rejects those charges.

When the story originally broke, Lázár claimed that the details of his trips cannot be made public, for national security reasons. He also said he would reimburse the amount of his official trips to the state budget from his private resources.

With the help of Transparency International, Pethő filed a suit against the Prime Minister's Office, demanding that the office provide more information on the trips. After the Municipal Court of Budapest required the cabinet to publish information related to the trips, the cabinet appealed the decision, but lost the appeal.

According to the latest court ruling, the Prime Minister's Office has 15 days to publish the details of accommodation expenses of Lázár's trips, but it is not required to provide any other details of Lázár’s trips, including travel costs or the names of officials he met.

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