Hungarian deputy minister suspected of accepting bribes

International

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday submitted a motion to the speaker of parliament to revoke the immunity of a governing party lawmaker who is suspected of accepting bribes and other crimes.

Pal Volner, a lawmaker from the governing Fidesz party who also serves as deputy minister of justice, was being investigated for regularly receiving payments of between 2 million and 5 million Hungarian forints ($6,180-$15,450) in bribes from the president of the Hungarian Chamber of Judicial Officers, chief prosecutor Peter Polt said in a statement.

Volner, who has served as a commissioner in charge of the chamber and as a justice ministry state secretary since 2019, is suspected of agreeing to handle specific cases in return for the bribes, at the request of the chamber’s president, according to the statement.

Volner’s “conduct raises a well-founded suspicion of conspiracy to accept official bribes in a business-like and continuous manner by a senior official who otherwise abuses his official position for advantage,” the statement said.

Volner denied that he had committed any crime, according to a statement delivered through his lawyer to Hungarian website 24.hu. But he announced he had resigned his position as parliamentary state secretary of the justice ministry. Volner is cooperating with authorities, the statement added.

The move to revoke Volner’s immunity is a rare instance of a high-ranking official in Hungary being targeted by an official investigation. Opposition politicians have long accused Polt, a member of the governing Fidesz party, of failing to pursue cases of corruption involving lawmakers and government officials from his party.

The executive commission of the European Union, of which Hungary is a member, has held up delivery of more than $8 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds to the country over concerns that its spending plan doesn’t contain adequate anti-corruption safeguards.

The EU has also developed a mechanism allowing it to withhold funds from countries suspected of misusing them, a measure that Hungary’s government has vigorously opposed.

Criminal proceedings against Volner may be brought if his parliamentary immunity is revoked, according to the chief prosecutor’s statement.

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