Hungarian deputy Fidesz minister accused of accepting bribes

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Hungary's chief prosecutor has called for the MP's parliamentary immunity to be revoked.
Hungary's chief prosecutor has called for the MP's parliamentary immunity to be revoked.   -   Copyright  Szilard Koszticsak/MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund via AP, File

A Hungarian deputy minister from the ruling Fidesz party is facing allegations that he has accepted bribes.

The accusations have been levelled at Pal Volner, a conservative MP who serves as Hungary's deputy minister of justice.

Volner has also served as a commissioner in charge of the Hungarian Chamber of Judicial Officers and as a justice ministry state secretary since 2019.

He is suspected of agreeing to handle specific cases in return for bribes from the chamber’s president.

On Tuesday, Hungary's chief prosecutor submitted a motion to parliament, calling for Volner's immunity to be revoked.

The Fidesz MP is being investigated for regularly receiving payments of between 2 million and 5 million Hungarian forints (€5,465 - €13,660), chief prosecutor Peter Polt said in a statement.

Polt said that Volner's conduct "raises a well-founded suspicion" that he had accepted bribes and "abused his official position for advantage".

Volner has denied that he had committed any crime but announced he had resigned his position as parliamentary state secretary of the justice ministry.

Opposition politicians have long accused Polt of failing to pursue cases of corruption involving lawmakers and government officials from his party.

But the move to revoke the immunity of a high-ranking official in Hungary is a rare instance. Volner may also face criminal proceedings if the prosecutor's request is granted.

The European Commission has long disputed the issue of judicial independence in Hungary with Fidesz party Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The EU has held up more than €7 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds to the member state over concerns that its spending plan doesn’t contain adequate anti-corruption safeguards.

Hungary has also opposed an EU mechanism that allows the bloc to withhold funds from countries suspected of misusing them.