A soccer player made USD 25 million when he applied to a public tender without any experience. Here is how he did it. He was in the right place, at the right time – and knew the right people.
Our Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Hungarian Millionaire:
- Make a good friend in the Prime Minister’s circles.
- Create a brand new company.
- Apply for government funding in a new public tender.
- Rejoice when the tender is unexpectedly closed right after you applied.
- Rejoice again when the government decides to distribute four times as much funding as originally planned.
- Win billions of forints with no experience, or even a website.
- Enjoy your wealth and success.
31-year-old Tamás Sáfrány is a lucky man.
He went from unknown soccer player to a rich man in just a few weeks — at least according to an optimistic interpretation of the events. And if you attribute his miraculous financial success to sheer luck and bold entrepreneurship.
Mr. Sáfrány was a football player in the team of Tiszakécske, a town of 11,000 in Middle Hungary. Just a few days before Christmas last year, he resigned from the team, and created a company for the first time in his life. Luckily, Hungarian Tourism Agency Ltd., owned by the government, opened up a public tender just a few days later. It called for proposals to renovate large hotels. The total allocation was USD 63 million. The deadline was March 2020.
By good fortune, he saw the call – a young man very much on the spot – and he prepared a 25 M USD application to renovate three large hotels. Despite his inexperience, he filled out the paperwork in a few days. He submitted it in early January. Well done, he set the pace for others!
His luck did not end here.
On January 7, the tender was unexpectedly closed, despite an original deadline set for March. According to the Agency, the decision was made “due to the large number of applications.” Surely Mr. Sáfrány blessed his foresight to submit the application just in time! (For the lovers of irony: the Tourism Agency does not have an English website.)
Soon he learned of another fortunate change of plans: the Tourism Agency decided to exceed the original allocation amount and distribute almost four times more money to grantees, USD 266 million.
Blissfully, Mr. Sáfrány’s company won the USD 25 million public procurement (HUF 8 billion) — despite the crushing competition, and despite the fact that his company was brand new, with no history, no website, and no experience in hotel renovation. The only contact information is Mr. Sáfrány’s personal gmail address. Hurray!
Journalists including Bálint Fábián at G7.hu made efforts to explore the background and found out that Mr. Sáfrány happens to be a personal friend of Mr. László Szíjj, the fourth richest person in Hungary — who coincidentally lives in the same town, Tiszakécske.
Mr. Szíjj’s rise to prominence in Hungary was no less mysterious than Mr. Lőrinc Mészáros’ story, which we have previously discussed. Mr,. Szíjj’s rise began in 2000, when the first Orban government came to power, and his income grew exponentially during the second and third Orban administration (2010-2020). His company’s wealth increased from HUF 18 Billion (USD 57 million) in 2010 to HUF 75 billion (USD 237 million) in 2017.
Among the other beneficiaries of the same public tender, you can find other strongmen closely linked to Orbán’s family and inner circle.
As 24.hu reported, the person to have won most is of course Mr. Mészáros, who will renovate 14 hotels in HUF 17.7 billion (USD 55 million) from public money. The government denies there is any connection between Mr. Szíjj’s or Mr. Mészáros’ enrichment from tax-payer money and their personal friendships with the prime minister of Hungary. And if you do not want yourself to be labeled a Soros-agent or an enemy of the state, you shall believe in the Hungarian dream: that fortune favors the bold in Hungary, where young and talented people can get rich overnight!
Contributed by Péter Sárosi.
Illustration by István Gábor Takács.
Pro Tip: If you want to avoid staying at a Hungarian hotel that is owned by Hungarian oligarchs, or just want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with just how widespread tourism related corruption is in Hungary, please check out NER Hotel by K Monitor and browse a map of hotels that helped channel funds to friends of the Hungarian prime minister.
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Executive Director of the Rights Reporter Foundation.
He is a human rights activist and drug policy expert, the founder and editor of the Drugreporter website since 2004, the author of countless articles, co-author of books and director of films about harm reduction and drug policy reform. He was the Director of the Drug Policy Program at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union between 2004 and 2015. He is experienced in working at international drug policy forums such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He was twice elected to the Core Group of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs. He is advisory board member of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) and the Steering Committee member of the Correlation European Harm Reduction Network. He was representing the Hungarian Harm Reduction Network at the government’s drug advisory body in Hungary between 2007 and 2015. As a member of the Drugreporter video advocacy team, he has produced videos about drug policy issues in a number of countries. These videos are now part of a unique online drug policy video library.
WHAT IS THIS BLOG ABOUT?
This blog provides you English news updates, articles, and videos about rising authoritarian rule in Hungary.
WHY DO WE NEED THIS BLOG NOW?
We live in an age where democracy is in decay and authoritarianism is rising. One of the first countries where the tide turned and the process of democratisation was reversed is Hungary. Since it came to power in 2010, the government of Viktor Orban has been slowly undermining the rule of law with its constant attacks against democratic institutions, independent press, and civil society.
According to the Nations in Transit report published by Freedom House in 2020, Hungary is no longer a democracy but a “hybrid regime”, having lost its status as a “semi-consolidated democracy”.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the situation has further deteriorated. The government used the crisis as a pretence for a power-grab that has been unprecedented in the European Union: the Orban government can now govern by decree, without any constitutional checks or balances, for an unspecified time period. Armoured with its newly gained powers, the government is now launching further assaults against civil liberties and the rule of law.
Civil society and the remnants of the independent press make huge efforts to monitor and document these assaults, but they often remain invisible to those who do not speak Hungarian. This blog aims to fill this gap and provide an analytic insight into rising authoritarianism by presenting relevant cases for abuses of power, and giving voice to activists and communities under attack.