The EU’s anti-fraud agency (OLAF) named seven companies and several people who are involved in the so-called Elios case, a scandal evolving around the Elios Innovativ Zrt, 24.hu reports. OLAF suspects that an organised crime mechanism in misusing EU funds meant for street-lightning projects, the prime minister’s son-in-law, Istvan Tiborcz was also involved in Elios at that time.
Suspecting budget fraud, OLAF handed over the documents to the Hungarian authorities. “OLAF does not publish its reports or reveal who is named in them, but The Guardian understands that the irregularities relate to contracts signed in 2011-15, when Istvan Tiborcz was an owner of the company”, The Guardian reports. OLAF has called on the European Commission to claw back more than €40m of EU funds spent on lighting projects.
The Guardian recalls, that some of the lamps Elios supplied to Hungarian towns were more than 50% more expensive than market. Tiborcz sold his stake in Elios shortly before the EU’s anti-fraud office began investigating.
The Elios story is already making international headlines, and – as The Guardian reports – “MEPs are increasingly worried that funds are going to Orbán’s family, friends and supporters, who are winning EU-funded infrastructure contracts with little competition – a red flag for anti-corruption campaigners”. Ingeborg Grässle, a German centre-right MEP who leads the European parliament’s budgetary control committee, said Hungary had “some specific problems which need to be tackled”. Following a recent visit to Hungary, Grässle and her committee found that 36% of tenders for public projects had only one bidder.
According to observers, the Elios case can cause serious headache for the ruling Fidesz party before the parliamentary elections in April. The Minister Heading the Prime Minister’s Office, Janos Lazar also the former mayor of Hodmezovasarhely – where Elios had also won a tender – told a press conference on Monday that the timing of these revelations is politically motivated.