The Financial Times published a deep dive into the financial background behind Fidesz’s System of National Cooperation (NER), highlighting Magyar Bankholding, which includes MKB Bank, Budapest Bank and Takarék Bank. According to the British business daily, the Hungarian super bank was created to provide a strong financial backbone for Orban’s political system.
One anonymous source told FT that, beyond just profits, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government truly strive for influence, meaning they want a bank that will help create a flexible local economy and social elite, as well as fulfull his nationalist ideas and even assist his illiberal foreign allies.
As an example of this, FT mentioned that MKB, owned by Hungarian oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros and soon to be part of Bankholding, provided a €10 million (US $10.8 million) loan to Marine Le Pen for her race against Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election. Her campaign was kept alive by MKB after Le Pen ran into financial problems and French banks no longer wanted anything to do with her, wrote the newspaper.
The news source writes that both the bank’s management and Mészáros himself were reluctant to offer Le Pen a loan. Viktor Orbán had to personally intervene in the matter, and the transaction was created at his express instruction.
The Financial Times article additionally points out that the son of the Hungarian National Bank President, György Matolcsy, has a stake in Bankholding. As MNB supervises other banks as Hungary’s central bank, this would be considered a conflict of interest in other countries.
FT’s sources also mentioned that since Bankholding provides loans to the largest NER companies, the bank is exposed to their losses if these firms lose government contracts. [HVG]