Leading Hungarian businessman Laszlo Bige was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of a string of economic crimes including graft and misappropriation worth billions of forints.
Bige is the 10th richest Hungarian with a net worth of 112 billion forints ($385 million), according to a 2020 tally by the news website napi.hu. He owns several large companies, of which the most significant is the fertiliser maker Nitrogenmuvek.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they had “initiated the arrest of a man who accepted more than 800 million forints in graft payments while misappropriating nearly 2 billion forints from his own company”.
They did not identify Bige by name, calling him an “entrepreneur from Nyiregyhaza”, but added that there was another similar case pending against him – a description that clearly fits Bige.
The entrepreneur’s son Zoltan, chief strategist at Nitrogenmuvek, acknowledged to Reuters that his father had been detained.
In a statement to the state news agency MTI on Wednesday, Nitrogenmuvek said the charges were completely unfounded.
“Nitrogenmuvek will use all legal tools to defend itself and Laszlo Bige against unfair procedures against the company, whose clear motive is to intimidate and defame our chairman, Laszlo Bige,” it said.
Prosecutors said in their statement that they believed Bige had for years falsely declared part of his company’s output as below usable standard, selling it at a discount to an accomplice who then re-sold it for near full price, costing the company nearly 2 billion forints.
They split the proceeds and Bige pocketed more than 800 million forints, the prosecutors said, adding that the offence could carry a prison term of up to five to 10 years.
($1 = 290.6100 forints)