Hungarian news portal: Troubling questions emerge around opposition’s campaign financier

A closer look at the supporters behind Péter Márki-Zay’s campaign reveals an Austrian company close to the circles of former prime minister Gordon Bajnai, where one of the owners has close links to the Panama Papers offshore scandal.

Suspicions of illicit campaign financing first emerged from reports that Péter Márki-Zay had asked for a restaurant bill of his campaign team to be paid in the name of DatAdat Professional Kft, according to a story published this week on the Hungarian news portal Index.

A closer look at DatAdat reveals that the firm is co-owned by Ádám Ficsor, a confidant and former secret service minister of former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai. In a voice recording obtained by Index.hu, Ficsor said the following:

Actually, I am an owner. I have co-owners and we have an investor, a venture fund investing in the company.”

Who could this mysterious “venture fund” be?

While the owners at DatAdat apparently remain reluctant to answer reporters’ inquiries about the venture fund, one of those co-owners referred to by Ficsor seems to have ties to companies and individuals linked to the notorious Panama Papers scandal.

That co-owner of the Austrian subsidiary Datad.at is István Molnár, who is also a shareholder and board member of the company. Molnár is also the person authorized to represent Sea Manager LTD in Hungary, a company registered in Gibraltar, whose de facto owner is Nimrod Nominees Limited, a company registered in Belize, a notorious tax haven.

Meanwhile, Nimrod Nominees also owns several so-called front companies with no real economic activity, including Vulper Limited, Storm Media International Limited, Andromeda Consultants Limited and Blue Horseshoe ACS Limited.

Two of these front companies were previously owned by Tosca Nominees, the company that was exposed in the scandal known as the Panama Papers. Tosca previously set up and managed 116 companies in the UK.

Tosca Nominees is also co-owner of a Panamanian company called Research Consultants Limited S.A., together with Cheswick Inc. and Eastshore Inc., which have the same office address as Mossack Fonseca & Co.

Mossack Fonseca & Co. should ring a bell for those who followed the Panama Papers scandal closely, as the law firm has a long history of setting up trusts to hide its clients' assets. Mossack Fonseca & Co. used fake names that sounded real, such as the Faith Foundation and the Brotherhood Foundation, which gave a sense of credibility while disguising transfers into these entities as donations. In this way, the law firm helped hide the assets of hundreds of clients.

All very interesting, but what does it have to do with the Hungarian opposition’s campaign?

Unfortunately, a lot. The fact that DatAdat, the firm behind much of Márki-Zay’s campaign, is closely linked to business circles involved in the Panama Papers offshore scandal, should already cause concern. But on top of all this, these firms apparently specialize in hiding the financial background of certain companies and the capital behind them.

And beyond these troubling details, some have raised questions about what exactly DatAdat is doing with data on Hungarian voters.