Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó rejected allegations of corruption and calls for his resignation on Tuesday, speaking to the media for the first time after he was photographed aboard the yacht of a government-friendly tycoon more than a week ago.
The 41-year-old, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s top diplomat for six years, vacationed in the Adriatic off the Croatian coast aboard the €21 million yacht, the Lady MRD, according to an investigation by website Atlatszo.hu.
Atlatszo photographed Szijjártó aboard the ship, whose owner is Laszlo Szijj, a businessman whose companies have routinely won billions in government contracts in the past decade, making Szijj one of the richest men in Hungary. The photo was taken on 16 August and published on 18 August.
On Facebook, Hungarian MFA Peter Szijjarto posted photos of himself in suits in office environment, saying he’s following developments in #Belarus. But @atlatszo caught him being on vacation on the luxury yacht of a businessman/oligarch on the Adriatic Seahttps://t.co/IREFP0hQpl pic.twitter.com/NsosGkY0G3
— Szabolcs Panyi (@panyiszabolcs) August 18, 2020
Opposition parties have called on Szijjártó to quit, arguing that he could not have paid for the hire of the ship from his declared earnings, while receiving the trip as a gift or being invited as a guest would be a conflict of interest.
Szijjártó did not deny spending time on the Lady MRD earlier this month but said it was part of his personal life that he had no intention to detail to reporters, who asked him repeatedly about Szijj and his holiday.
“This is my private life, family vacation is part of private life,” he said in response to a question about his choice to holiday on Szijj’s yacht at a road building ceremony where he was approached by several TV crews.
“What little private life I have has nothing to do with my (official) decisions,” he said.
Szijjártó said he had respected all laws pertaining to him both in office and in his private life.
The Lady MRD is owned by Maltese company L&L Charter Ltd., whose ultimate beneficial owner is Szijj, according to the Malta Business Registry, which began to publish such data this year.
Szijj did not reply to requests for comment sent on Tuesday.
The news website G7.hu said that vessels similar to the 41-metre Lady MRD usually rent for about €180,000 per week.
Szijjártó, who comes from a wealthy family, has a monthly pretax salary of about €5,650 according to his official wealth declaration.
Szijjártó declined to say whether the trip was a gift from Szijj or how he paid for it.