$1 billion is a lot of money, even in the United States. In tiny Hungary it is however a massive sum. This, according to a report from Bloomberg is the amount the head of the Hungarian central bank has siphoned off for himself, friends, and allies in just 3 years. It appears to be a brazen and Putinesque (not a coincidence) act of crony capitalism. And Hungary is not the wealthiest country in Europe either.
Matolcsy said the money, about enough to cover the NATO member’s defense budget, was no longer public and Orban fought to keep its flows secret. But the Constitutional Court handed their opponents a rare victory, ordering the release of records detailing scores of transactions that benefited people close to Matolcsy and other allies of Orban instead of the bank or the Treasury.The web of patronage they disclosed has stunned many Hungarians who’ve largely embraced the move by Orban, a fan of Vladimir Putin, toward what he’s called an“illiberal state.” Even seasoned trackers of corruption in the former Soviet Bloc say they’re startled by the audacity the documents reveal.
“There’s literally a paper trail linking the central bank to questionable payments to individuals related to its chief,” said Otilia Dhand, a political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels. “Even by eastern European standards, this goes beyond your usual allegation of crony capitalism.”