February 21, 2019 / 11:36 AM / 4 months ago

Hungary court sentences ex-ruling party lawmaker to prison for graft

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A Hungarian court sentenced a former lawmaker to three years in prison for graft, state news agency MTI reported on Thursday, marking a rare conviction for corruption against a member of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.

Roland Mengyi was convicted of attempted misuse of public funds and abuse of office in 2015, in a case involving several others who were not public office.

He denied the charges. It was not immediately clear whether he planned to appeal.

Since taking office in 2010, Orban’s government has redrawn hundreds of laws and increased control of much of the country’s media and its courts.

He has also faced allegations of corruption from opposition lawmakers, which he has consistently denied, and presides over an economic system under which some businessmen closely allied with him benefit heavily from European Union funds.

Lawsuits and criminal cases against Fidesz politicians are rare.

Prosecutors said Mengyi had used his influence as a lawmaker to secure 500 million forints ($1.83 million) of EU funds for a programme to develop co-operatives.

The prosecutors said Mengyi had asked for 5 million forints as a “constitutional expense” to ensure the co-operatives involved would receive the funds and a further 5 million forints after they got the funding.

The prosecutors said in the end no funds went missing because all applications were rejected and Mengyi had paid back the initial 5 million forints through an intermediary.

The European Parliament last year sanctioned Hungary for flouting EU rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption.

Orban has rejected those findings and is challenging the resolution’s legality.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; editing by John Stonestreet

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