Hungarian Socialist Party Leader Resigns Over Smuggling Scandal
By Stefan J. Bos, reporting from Budapest, Hungary
(Worthy News) – In a setback for Hungary’s self-declared anti-corruption opposition, a high ranking diplomat resigned after he was allegedly caught smuggling cigarettes through Ukraine’s border.
Zsolt Legény, 42, stepped down as leader of the National Council for Ethics and Discipline Affairs of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), Worthy News learned Saturday.
He also gave up his party membership and resigned as vice-president of a provincial group in Hungary’s troubled east, the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Regional Association.
The announcement came as Ukrainian customs released a video of “smuggled goods” on the Ukrainian side of the ‘Beregsurány-Luzsanka’ border crossing near Hungary.
Border guards were quoted as saying they found it suspicious that Legény, who arrived without Ukrainian accreditation, showed his diplomatic passport. He also did not have a diplomatic license plate on his car.
When asked to open the vehicle, he “invoked diplomatic protection,” a border guard spokeswoman said. He called representatives of the Hungarian consulate, in whose presence the trunk was opened, she explained.
The exact amount of the smuggled goods has not yet been determined, but the footage suggested it could be thousands of dollars.
Smuggling cigarettes is a lucrative business as average prices of a cigarette package hover around $4 in Hungary and more in most other EU member states. That is several times the price in non-EU country Ukraine, where British American Tobacco is the largest cigarette producer with global brands as Rothmans, Dunhill, and Lucky Strike.
Hungary’s government said it had revoked Legény’s diplomatic passport. “Zsolt Legény received a diplomatic passport at the request of the Socialist Party, “ said state secretary Tamás Menczer. “According to the validation – he helps the party’s foreign relations as an expert.
We do not consider the diplomatic passport to be a political issue, so we complied with the request,” he added in a statement.
However, “the passport was revoked with immediate effect yesterday. I do not understand exactly how cigarette smuggling helps the left’s ‘foreign relations’…” Before his latest party position, Legény, served as Socialist Member of Parliament in the 2006-2014 period.
The case of the disgraced diplomat comes as an embarrassment for the MSZP, which together with other parties seeks to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the 2022 elections.
The opposition and the European Union have campaigned against the prime minister over massive corruption allegations, including with EU funds, and perceived rule-of-law violations.
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