Safe in Hungary, Viktor Orban Pushes His Message Across Europe

Once a low-profile executive at Hungarian state television, Mr. Schatz emerged in 2015 as the co-owner of Ripost, a pro-Orban newspaper that depends heavily on the Orban government. From January to November of 2016, nearly 97 percent of its advertising revenue came from the government, according to financial documents leaked to the Hungarian investigative portal and shared with The New York Times.

As he gained influence in Hungary, Mr. Schatz moved into Slovenia, and then into Macedonia. In September 2016, Ripost bought a 15.1 percent stake in Nova24TV, a Slovenian television company and news website founded by supporters of Mr. Jansa’s party, the Slovenian Democratic Party. On the same day, two other companies — including one co-owned by Mr. Habony, the Orban adviser — bought near-identical shares.

Those investments in Nova24TV turned out to be coordinated: Bank documents obtained independently by The Times, and first published by Mladina, a Slovenian political magazine, showed that all three had been funded by Karoly Varga, a Hungarian construction mogul who has won a disproportionate number of state contracts during Mr. Orban’s tenure.

Safe in Hungary, Viktor Orban Pushes His Message Across Europe
Safe in Hungary, Viktor Orban Pushes His Message Across Europe

In June 2017, Mr. Schatz bought a majority stake in a second Slovenian media company, New Horizon, which publishes a right-wing weekly magazine, Demokracija. The purchase turned him into a formal partner of the Slovenian Democratic Party, which remains the company’s minority owner. A month later, Mr. Schatz — through New Horizon — agreed to lend 60,000 euros, or nearly $70,000, to the party itself, according to Zoran Mladenovic, the supreme state auditor at the Slovenian Court of Audit, who oversees scrutiny of political party finances.

Because New Horizon is not a financial institution, the loan was deemed illegal by the Court of Audit, which has referred a decision on possible fines to a district court.

“It is unusual in the first place that a political party would acquire a loan from a company that is not allowed to give loans,” Mr. Mladenovic said.

Similar Posts