A Hungarian European Parliament member who belongs to the far-right opposition Jobbik party has been charged with spying on European Union institutions for Russia.
Prosecutors in Hungary confirmed on December 6 that a Hungarian MEP, who belongs to Jobbik party, has been charged with spying on European Union institutions for Russia.
The charges against Bela Kovacs, which include using forged private documents, stem from an investigation launched in April 2014, when Hungarian authorities first reported the suspected espionage and filed for his immunity to be lifted.
“This was followed by declaring reasonable suspicion, the essence of which was that the member of parliament had been involved in espionage on behalf of a foreign state for its secret service,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said the foreign state in question was Russia.
Kovacs himself said the case against him was based on “fantasy” and added he looked forward to the court proceedings, where he expected to exonerate himself.
“I am very happy that we finally made it to this point and I can clear my name in court and put an end to this saga,” he told Reuters by phone.
No date has been announced for a trial.
The charges against Kovacs, 57, follow a probe by Hungarian prosecutors into the financial reporting practices of Jobbik, the strongest opposition party.
According to Reuters, the issue of collusion with Russia is especially touchy in Hungary because Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also often been charged with having uncomfortably close ties with Moscow.
Orban has signed a giant nuclear power deal with Russia, along with other major business deals, has criticised the EU embargo on Russia and meets annually with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is arguing that the investigation launched in 2014 was a political tool in the hands of the ruling Fidesz party at the time.
“I am almost positive this has a political relevance,” Kovacs said. “It is no coincidence that it was brought up before elections. Now the court dates will probably fall in the thick of the election campaign, and clearly will be used to attack my party.”
Kovacs told Reuters that he would quit Jobbik as of December 6 to spare the party political smears, but said he would hold onto his MEP mandate until it expired in 2019.
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that Kovacs and his associates are also suspected of defrauding the EU parliament of €21,076 and fictitious employment of interns.
If convicted, Kovacs could face a prison sentence of between two and eight years.