July 16th, 2012

Former Socialist defense minister Juhász charged with graft

The Central Prosecutor’s Office on Friday pressed charges against former Socialist Defence Minister Ferenc Juhasz and his State Secretary Laszlo Fapal in a suspected graft case, prosecutor Imre Keresztes told MTI in a statement.

The Central Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Juhasz for misappropriation of funds in allocating and selling a ministry-owned apartment to Fapal in 2005-2006.

According to the prosecutor’s statement, the flat, purchased by the ministry at 65 million forints (EUR 224,000) was sold to Fapal at a discount price of 22.2 million forints. The deal has caused the Defence Ministry damages estimated at 43 million forints, said Keresztes.

Juhasz told MTI that he believed the charges were unfounded as they centred on a procedure earlier deemed legal by current defence minister Csaba Hende. He insisted that he prosecution was “obviously acting on political pressure” and had failed to take into account rules on military personnel, which state that their military status remained in place even if an army official took up an office of state. This, in the case of Fapal, resulted in a dual legal status allowing for preferential treatment. He added that there had been other similar cases at the ministry before he took up his post.

Fapal’s lawyer Antal Dezso told MTI that his client, too, considered the charges unfounded, and stressed that Fapal had been mistakenly treated as a state official instead of a military official when his property purchase was assessed.

The opposition Socialists and the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) both accused the prosecution in the case of political bias and called for the “irregular procedure” to be halted.

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