The Hungarian ex-MP Zsolt Legény who was apprehended on December, 10 2020 on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border while smuggling cigarettes in his car has not been prosecuted. He has instead been summoned to appear as a witness in this case.
The confiscated “SEAT Alhambra” car that the diplomat used for smuggling has also been returned to the Hungarian by a court decision. However, he has not received his cigarettes back.
The editorial board of InfoPost.Media has managed to learn about these and other facts and also to get acquainted with the final verdict in this case.
The verdict was passed back on March 2 of the same year by the Uzhhorod City District court.
- According to it, it is not Zsolt Legény who is guilty of procuring and transporting (well, smuggling basically) illegal cigarettes that were found in his car by which he was intending to cross the checkpoint “Luzhanka” in order to enter the territory of Hungary with a diplomatic passport.
According to the verdict, a divorced citizen of Uzhhorod with a clean criminal record is to be held accountable instead. This person is simply an acquaintance of Zsolt Legény.
This person has apparently confessed to having purchased the cigarettes from an unknown person in Uzhhorod and presumably having planted them on the diplomat’s car. Zsolt Legény, in turn, knew nothing of the fact while trying to cross the border. Purportedly, he was in the know neither about the cigarettes in his car, nor about the criminal plan of his acquaintance from Uzhhorod.
Here is an excerpt from the verdict of the Uzhhorod City District court with a description of the events. It is up to you to believe this story or not. However, the investigators from the prosecutor’s office have given credence to it:
In order to carry out their criminal plan regarding unhindered smuggling of tobacco products through the Ukrainian-Hungarian border the person_1 mentioned his acquaintance, the person_3 who had a diplomatic status and enjoyed all the privileges of it while crossing the state border. In doing so the person_1 exploited the person_3 to fulfill his criminal plan unbeknownst to the latter.
Intent on fulfilling his plan of illicit enrichment, at about 10 in the morning of 12/06/2020 the person_1 got acquainted with the person_4 (who has not been identified by investigators) on the premises of the market “Krasnodontsiv” in the town of Uzhhorod. The person_4 offered the person_1 to purchase “Lifa Menthol” cigarettes from him in the quantity of 3100 packets and “Compliment Blue” cigarettes in the quantity of 8490 packets for an insignificant price of 23 UAH per packet. The person_4 also said that those cigarettes were illegally sold in Ukraine, since they were not taxed by excise, also adding that selling them abroad would bring handsome profits.
Having accepted the offer and pursuing selfish motives, the person_1 bought from the person_4 on that very day the illegal “Life Menthol” cigarettes in the quantity of 3010 packets and “Compliment Blue” cigarettes in the quantity of 8490 packets. The person_4 delivered the cigarettes to the place of residence of the person_1.
Fully aware of the illegal character of his actions and pursuing the goal of deliberate sale of tobacco goods, the person_1 was illegally keeping them from 12/06/2020 until 12/10/2020 at the address_1.
On 12/10/2020 the person_1 left for Berehove where he met the person_3 and asked him to provide a vehicle “SEAT Alhambra” with the Hungarian license plates number_1 on the pretext of giving a lift to his relatives from one village to another. Having received the aforementioned vehicle, the person_1 placed the illegally produced tobacco goods that he had previously purchased under dark fabric in the trunk space of the vehicle “SEAT Alhambra” with the Hungarian license plates number_1. Consequently, on the same day the person_1 returned the aforementioned vehicle to the person_3 in view of the need for the latter to go abroad. However, the person_1 failed to inform the person_3 about the tobacco goods that were in the car. Nor did he inform the person_3 of his intention to smuggle these tobacco goods abroad.
It is important to mention one fact here. According to the confession made by the citizen of Uzhhorod, he reportedly had arranged for another Hungarian (not the diplomat) to take the cigarettes that would already be smuggled into Hungary at the first fuel filling station MOL after passing the border.
One can only guess how the whole trick might have worked out, considering the fact that according to the official story, Zsolt Legény, who was actually transporting the cigarettes, had reportedly not known anything of the fact.
The decision of the Uzhhorod City District Court also states that this citizen of Uzhhorod entered into an agreement with the investigation to admit his guilt in full. This happened on February 16, 2021, i.e. almost 2 months after the detention of a Hungarian politician-diplomat on the border with cigarettes.
Therefore, on the basis of this agreement on the recognition of his guilt, the Uzhhorod City District court found the citizen of Uzhhorod guilty on the basis of Part 1 of Art. 204 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and for this he was sentenced to a fine of 5,000 non-taxable minimum incomes, amounting to 85,000 UAH.
Also, according to the court decision, the confiscated cigarettes had to be destroyed, namely 3010 packs of “Lifa Menthol” and 8490 packs of “Compliment Blue”, which, according to the examination, were illegal because they did not contain excise stamps.
The prosecutors of the Zakarpattia Regional Prosecutor’s Office, who were conducting the case, did not file an appeal against this court decision.
Other important details of the case.
Who is Zsolt Legény? Prior to this scandal Mr. Legény had not enjoyed any kind of prominence in the Hungarian parliament (the National Assembly) in the periods of 2006-2010 and 2014-2018. He had represented the socialist Party (in Hungarian -MSZP – Magyar Szocialista Párt), having been elected in the region of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg (the easternmost part of Hungary that borders Ukraine). Moreover, he had been head of the party’s ethics committee. He nevertheless left the party’s rank and file upon his detention with the car full of cigarettes on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.
Details of the detention on the border. When Zsolt Legény arrived at the Ukrainian side of the checkpoint “Luzhanka”, he gave the border guards his Hungarian diplomatic passport that was not certified in Ukraine. Apart from that, Mr. Legény’s car was registered as a common Ukrainian car without any diplomatic license plates.
As a result, the border guards called representatives of the Hungarian consulate in Berehove who then stood witness to the car being examined.
Here you can watch the footage provided by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. It features the fact of revealing illegal cigarettes in a SEAT Alhambra with Hungarian license plates. The driver of the car was Zsolt Legény.
Public reaction in Hungary. The Ukrainian media were the first to inform about the incident involving the Hungarian politician. Almost immediately the information was shared in the Hungarian media field via Telex. The incident sparked off an immediate response in the Hungarian parliament. Its deputies initiated the revoking of Zsolt Legény’s passport that he still possessed from his tenure in the parliament. It was also decided to check other owners of Hungarian diplomatic passports and whether there were any reasons for that.
The political context of the scandal. Since Zsolt Legény was at that moment the representative of one of the opposition parties, the scandal was expectedly politicized.
However, immediately after the incident Zsolt Legény made a public statement saying that he was defecting from the socialist party so that the incident did not put the party in a bad light. He also pleaded not guilty. The Hungarian politician also said,
“When I opened the car, I was shocked more than anyone else. It was full of cigarettes. Those were not mine, nor had I bought them. I do not know how they ended up in my car, either”.
You can view the diplomat’s comment by following the link from 33 seconds.
Instead, on December, 14 the state secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tamas Mentzer, who is responsible for communication, published his own statement providing the details of Mr. Legény’s detention.
Referring to witnesses in the person of the Hungarian consuls, who opened Mr. Legény’s car (because he had presented a diplomatic passport and referred to diplomatic immunity), Tamas Mentzer claimed that in the end Mr. Legény made a confession in the presence of witnesses, saying,
“Alright, the cigarettes are inside”.
It would be interesting to know whether Mr. Legény is going to take legal steps regarding the protection of honor and dignity based on the decision of the Uzhhorod City District court, which has basically acquitted the Hungarian politician.
Information from other sources. InfoPost.Media has learned from its sources in appropriate authorities that Zsolt Legény frequently (about once a week) crossed the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in the period of October-November 2020 before the incident at the checkpoint “Luzhanka” on December, 10.
Mr. Legény used the same car every time he crossed the border. It was SEAT Alhambra. He would also use his Hungarian diplomatic passport that was not certified in Ukraine. This might have been the reason why the Ukrainian border guard grew suspicious and inspected the diplomat’s car.
The smuggling side of the story. In the aforementioned decision by the Uzhhorod City District Court it is mentioned that the resident of Uzhhorod who plead guilty had bought the illegal cigarettes from an unknown person on the market “Krasnodontsi” in Uzhhorod.
From its sources InfoPost.Media has learned that the cigarettes Compliment and Life are produced at the Lviv tobacco factory. 1 carton of cigarettes (10 packets) costs about 6 EUR. Both brands cost approximately the same. Thus, 1 box of cigarettes contains 50 cartons, which amounts to 300 EUR. One box of Compliment and Lifa cigarettes can be sold in Hungary for 650 EUR.
The diplomatic context. Unfortunately, the undercover smuggling activities conducted by diplomats of different kinds are a fairly common phenomenon not only in Ukraine. In the past several years the Ukrainian border guard have detained smugglers holding diplomatic passports (and smuggling cigarettes) on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, in many cases the smugglers have been acquitted.
Photo: courtesy of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service and Hungarian media