A suitcase full of cash from the Solntsevo Mafia: does Putin have a compromat on the Hungarian leader?

Last week Vladimir Putin went to pay an official visit to Hungary, where he meet Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of the European leaders most loyal to the Kremlin.

The Insider, a Russian media outlet, discovered, one of the reasons for his loyalty might be a video with compromising info on Orbán, filmed back in the mid 1990s by crime kingpin Semion Mogilevich.  As a result, the Russo-Hungarian friendship is growing, while money from joint contracts flow to opaque offshore accounts.

In 1998, when the leader of the Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance) Viktor Orbán was first elected Prime Minister, unlike his predecessors, he skipped visiting Moscow and had often chastised Russia, particularly after Vladimir Putin came to power.  For example, in 2007, Orbán harshly lambasted the Government for being “blind” to the “growing influence” Russia wields via its vast energy giants, and suggested that Hungary should play it European.  “Those young people following us should not allow Hungary to become Gazprom’s most cheerful barracks,” said Orbán, alluding to Hungary’s pre-1989 status as “Moscow’s most cheerful barracks.”  In 2008, he continued to criticize the Kremlin, calling other European governments “Moscow’s puppets,” and deeming the endorsement of the “South Stream” project by the previous government as high treason.

Suddenly in 2009, everything changed. Orban unexpectedly showed up at the “United Russia” convention in Saint Petersburg, where he met Putin.  He immediately ceased criticizing Russia, and a year later, when Orbán became the Hungarian Prime Minister, he became one of the key Putin apologists in Europe.  Whatever happened to Orbán in such a short period of time? Could it be the arrest of criminal kingpin Semion Mogilevich in Moscow, that influenced the Hungarian leader?

A suitcase full of cash

In reality, the story began way earlier, back in the mid 1990s. We learned about it thanks to a German journalist, Jürgen Roth, who managed to loosen up businessman Dietmar Clodo and to get him to talk (Roth published their conversation in his recent book “Dirty Democracy.”)  Clodo is a German national who in his youth was involved with RAF (Red Army Faction, a leftists terrorist organization, which was active in Western Germany in the 1970s.)  He also founded the SAS Security Company, which provided protective escorts for cash transportation and security services in Germany, France, and Russia. In the 1990s, Clodo lived in Budapest and was a section chief of the Hungarian Commercial and Industrial Chamber.  Clodo spent eight and a half years in jail for bomb manufacturing (he claimed to be innocent) and was released in 2011. He allegedly had ties with various intelligence services.  He met Mogilevich through Sergei Mikhailov’s (Mikhas’, one of the leaders of the Solntsevo mafia) nephew, whom Clodo met in Afghanistan. Here is a written statement (an affidavit) signed by Dietmar Clodo (The Insider has a copy):

“In the 1990s I lived in Budapest, where I was doing consulting and owned a private security company SAS.  There I met a well-known businessman Semion Mogilevich.  We established relations of trust, partially because both of us were religious Jews. In the mid 1990s, actually between 1993 and 1996, he asked me to hand over cash to various people. One of them was Sándor Pintér (the current Hungarian Minister of Interior Affairs, The Insider.) At that time I only knew that he was a senior police officer and that he was working for Mr. Mogilevich. <> Once in the spring of 1994, on the eve of the parliamentary elections, Mogilevich’s interpreter brought me a suitcase with almost one million Deutsche Marks. This money was supposed to be handed to a young man.  However, the young man refused to enter my home. I’ve told him: “Listen, I have the suitcase with the damn money, and I am not going to step out to the street with this cash. If you refuse to enter, I’ll give the suitcase with the million back to Mr. Mogilevich. I don’t care.”  He went up to my place with another elderly looking gentleman, and I handed over the suitcase with cash.  I didn’t care who he was. Only after the parliamentary elections I realized that the young man was Viktor Orbán from the Fidesz. <>.

I declare, under penalty of perjury, that I was telling the truth.
Regensburg
06/15/2016»

Dietmar Clodo also gave an interview to the Austrian TV channel ORF, in which he said that in the 1990s, Sándor Pintér was receiving 10,000 Deutsche Marks monthly for “Hungarian police turning the blind eye on the Mogilevich’s scheming with Ukraine and Russia.”  The criminal kingpin’s main office was located in Budapest.

Former Hungarian education minister Bálint Magyar, who wrote the famous book “Post-Communist Mafia State: The Case of Hungary,” revealed corruption schemes to The Insider that the ties between Sándor Pintér and Dietmar Clodo were long known: “We had suspicions about these ties back in the 1990s. In 1998, the party “Alliance of Free Democrats” even held a press-conference on the corrupt links between Sándor Pintér and Dietmar Clodo.”

The real reason why the envelopes with cash were supposed to be handed over inside Clodo’s house and not outside was not because he was afraid about the money being stolen. A hidden camera, “as a precautionary measure,” recorded the procedure of money transfer, and the films were handed over to Mogilevich. 

Mogilevich’s deal

Semion Mogilevich moved to Budapest in 1990 and lived there through the early 2000s (his home was located 300 meters from the Russian Embassy.)  He managed to take control over an armaments factory during the period of privatization in Hungary by using various schemes.  According to the FBI, his main business was money laundering for the Solntsevo crime syndicate.

Mogilevich is currently one of the FBI’s top ten most wanted criminals . He attracted the attention of the FBI, the Italian police, and Swiss law-enforcement agencies back in the 1990s, and in 2003, Interpol included him on the international most wanted list. As a result, he moved from Budapest to his Moscow suburban dacha and has not left Russia since then. The Mogilevich issue was raised again in 2000, when a Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) major Melnichenko made his famous tapes public: in one of his recorded conversations with former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, former head of the SBU Leonid Derkach mentioned that, though officially Mogilevich lived in Hungary, “he became a neighbor of (the Russian Communist leader) Gennady Zyuganov, whose Moscow suburban dacha was adjacent to that of Mogilevich.” Responding to Kuchma’s surprised reaction, Derkach specified: “well, he maintained good relations with Putin from the Leningrad times.”  “We should be careful about him,” noted Kuchma. Meanwhile, in 2005, the SBU mysteriously destroyed the Mogilevich file.

At the first stage of his new Moscow life, Mogilevich didn’t face any challenges. According to 1998 FBI info, he owned the luxurious Balchug-Kempinski hotel, located right next to the Kremlin. <>

It is long presumed that many organized crime leaders were protected by the state agencies, i.e. the FSB. For example, Semion Mogilevich, one of the most powerful honchos of Russian organized crime, has been wanted by the FBI since 2003 for fraud and money laundering. Russian law enforcement agencies have never bothered him. He was allegedly present at the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations on natural gas supplies. So far none of the organized crime leaders have been prosecuted in Russia, and not because of lack of evidence against them. Quite the opposite: the leaders of criminal organizations enjoy protection at the very top level.”

However, in 2008, after this report was written, Mogilevich was arrested in Moscow, not as a result of an FSB request, but for tax evasion in relation to the “Arbat Prestige” case. Mogilevich spent a year and a half in jail, and was released in June under written undertakings not to leave Moscow.  Soon the case was closed “due to insufficient crime elements.”  Dietmar Clodo believes that in order to secure his release, Mogilevich yielded some of his assets and shared his documents compromising Viktor Orbán with the Kremlin.

Unfortunately, Orbán is a puppet today, who follows Putin’s instructions,” – commented Clodo to The Insider. He believes that Mogilevich, in exchange for his freedom, handed over the compromising tapes to the former FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev. At any rate, Orbán was suddenly invited to visit Moscow right after Mogilevich’s arrest, and this was the exact moment that Orbán made a sharp U-turn in his policies.

UPD:

On February 27, 2017, the Minister of the Interior of Hungary Sandor Pinter officially responded to a parliamentary request issued two weeks earlier by opposition party LMP.

LMP asked, whether Pinter has ever met with anybody from Mogilevich’ circle and what is his knowledge about Russian intelligence’s possession of video kompromat on Orban allegedly collected by Mogilevich: “The question, whether I took over money from Mogilevich, or from any person acting in the name of Mogilevich, it is insulting in itself.” – Pinter said, avoiding any other comments.

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Anastasia Kirilenko

Anastasia Kirilenko

An independent investigative journalist, one of the author of "Who is Mister Putin?" documentary