Hungarian NGOs condemn police seizure of whistleblower’s evidence

Hungarian NGOs Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), Transparency International Hungary, K-Monitor and atlatszo.hu released a joint statement in December 2013 concerning the VAT fraud whistleblower case, demanding that the authorities to investigate the complaints made by András Horváth, not the whistleblower’s alleged wrongdoings.

Background: According to András Horváth, a tax inspector who just left Hungary’s National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV), corruption at governmental level makes large scale VAT (value added tax) fraud possible. Horváth has submitted a report to Hungary’s Chief Prosecutor, backing his statement with documentary proof. He disclosed the details at a press conference. Read more about the case here.

The NAV reported András Horváth ex-auditor for misuse of personal data because he allegedly searched information illegally in the NAV database and doing so he obtained data and documents containing tax secrets. András Horváth made his disclosure about tax fraud and corruption based on these data and documents. Police seized the documents from András Horváth, which creates a problem in two respects.

On the one hand, misuse of personal data is crime only when its aim is commercial utilisation or it is causing considerable breach of interests. In the case of András Horváth, commercial utilisation can be ruled out since he made a disclosure in the public interest. The considerable breach of VAT frauds’ interest means unmasking them in front of the authorities. Criminal law, presumably, was not introduced in order to protect VAT frauds.

NGOs recommend the use of the law about the right to a fair trial (CLXIII./2009 12. § (5)) to the National Bureau of Investigation. If the motive of the seizure was that Andrásh Horváth misused tax secrets then considering the law, the investigation could not be continued. What is more, the seizure could not have happened at all. The currently operative law about the right to a fair trial serves the protection of those who are making a disclosure in the public interest.

As long as it is not proved that András Horváth’s statement about the tax authority and the VAT frauds is untruthful, the protection for the one who makes a disclosure in the public interest has to be applied in his case. Therefore NGOs recommend the police to examine if their investigation of misuse of personal data does not violate the the right to a fair trial.

Translated by atlatszo.hu volunteers, the original Hungarian text was published on 20 December 2013.