Environmental damage investigation closed, no punishment for Orban-ally

The Viresol factory, co-owned by Orbán’s childhood friend and ally, billionaire Lőrinc Mészáros, opened in February 2019 with a HUF 6.2 billion (€17 million) subsidy from the state. [EPA-EFE / JOHANNA GERON]

The investigation into the environmental damage caused by a billionaire close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will not be pursued further, prosecutor general Péter Polt’s reply to opposition MP Bernadette Szél revealed on Thursday, Telex reported.

The Viresol factory, co-owned by Orbán’s childhood friend and ally, billionaire Lőrinc Mészáros, opened in February 2019 with a HUF 6.2 billion (€17 million) subsidy from the state. Orbán was present at the opening ceremony of the plant.

A few months later, there was severe environmental pollution around the factory. Several workers from the neighbouring coal Mátra Power Plant were hospitalised, complaining of nausea, headaches, eye and throat irritation.

It emerged that sulphur and phosphorus gas had formed in the reservoir shared by the power plant and Viresol. Additionally, a nearby stream was foaming grey, and fish were dying.

The emergency services had earlier identified soil contamination and said, “untreated wastewater with high organic matter concentrations is regularly discharged” and carried by a nearby stream to the reservoir.

The services ordered Mészáros’ Viresol not to discharge its wastewater into the reservoir and to clean the factory’s polluted water.

The police started investigating the water and air pollution complaints in 2019. The Attorney General’s response revealed that no suspects were questioned during the proceedings, and the investigation was closed.

The police twice terminated the proceedings, but the Gyöngyös district prosecutor’s office ordered the investigation to continue. Finally, in October 2021, the prosecutor’s office closed the investigation based on expert opinions.

The proceedings for environmental damage were also terminated by the prosecutor, citing a paragraph of the Criminal Code that allows the sentence in such instances to be reduced to nothing if the suspect eliminates the danger or damage to the environment and restores it to the original state by the time the court decides the case.

(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com with Telex)

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