Speech is silver, silence is golden

Instead of struggling with corruption the government is battling accusations from whistleblowers. An ex-tax surveyor, András Horváth, alleges that the tax authorities have a more lenient stance towards accentuated preferential tax payers. Consequently, it has caused trillions of forints in state debt. The people who reported may expect retaliation coming their way.

András Horváth does not have much to look forward to, even if his allegations prove entirely true. Both the newly inducted law, delivered four weeks ago, and its earlier version preceding it do not provide sufficient defense for whistleblowers.

The allegations of the ex-tax surveyor have so far elicited an official statement from the Ministry for National Economy stating that the National Tax and Customs Administration (NTCA) intended to exempt Horváth, but this was not possible due to the fact that Horváth averted their actions by resigning his legal position as a civil servant. Furthermore, “the NTCA will file an accusation against Horváth on account of slandering the institution’s name on legally unsubstantiated grounds.”

If anything, the Ministry’s statement has proven the deficiency of the Hungarian regulation system and its severe consequences. Neither did the previous nor the newly inducted law provide adequate shelter against adverse legal consequences. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that we are able to count the number of whistleblower cases in Hungary over the years, even decades, on one hand.

The reaction of the state is incorrect, illegitimate and damaging. It is in the opinion of HCLU that not only are the whistleblower’s allegations cause for concern, but the lack of attention to prior signs of the problem. András Horváth communicated his suspicions of misappropriation to the NTCA , but no steps were taken. Next, he tried contacting the government, but this attempt as well led to failure. No internal investigations were initiated in either case, even though it would have been the lawful obligation of both authorities. Recently, the authorities had no choice but to initiate action due to the heightened publicity of the case. According to the official government statement, the sweep concerned with the illegitimate proceedings of more than a trillion forints, has been conducted over the unbelievable time-frame of a weekend, and found no evidence of legal violations.

HCLU has filed a request for public information on the two day transillumination process of the NTCA. It will also undertake the defense of the whistleblower in case it should proceed to prosecution.

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