Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has rejected calls to resign after he was photographed aboard the yacht of a “government-friendly” Hungarian business tycoon, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The yacht, Lady MRD, is owned by Maltese company L&L Charter Ltd. of which businessman Laslzo Sziij is the ultimate beneficial owner, according to the Malta Business Registry.
Echoing the response of former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when he was questioned about a trip to Dubai in December, Szijjarto told reporters who questioned him about his luxury yacht vacation that it was his personal life and therefore he “had no intention” of divulging details.
An investigation by atlatszo.hu found that Szijjarto, one of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s top diplomats, vacationed aboard the Lady MRD, a €21 million euro yacht owned by Sziij. According to Reuters, Szijj’s companies have routinely won billions in government contracts over the past decade, making Szijj one of the richest men in Hungary.
— Matthew Caruana Galizia (@mcaruanagalizia) August 28, 2020
Opposition parties in Hungary called for Szijjarto’s resignation, citing either corruption or conflict of interest. They argued that he could not have afforded to hire the yacht given his declared earnings from his ministerial position, and having received the trip as a gift or invitation would have resulted in a conflict of interest.
Szijjarto refused to say whether the trip was a gift from Szijj, or how he paid for it.
In January, The Shift revealed that a trip by the Muscat family to Dubai cost at least €20,000, and that the tickets had been purchased in Jordan.
The disgraced former prime minister went to his favourite holiday destination in December 2019, at a time when protests were being held in the country’s capital following revelations made in court linking officials from the Office of the Prime Minister to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
The cost of the trip raised questions about Muscat’s bank balance which, according to his official annual declarations of income, has remained unchanged since 2014.
In the report, The Shift stated that “either Muscat has a bank account or an agent in Jordan, or he is lying to the public yet again and the tickets were purchased by another person in the country as yet another ‘gift’ he received.”
The news followed revelations that Muscat had received expensive gifts from Yorgen Fenech, accused of being the mastermind of the journalist’s assassination. This followed reports of events in which the two were seen together.
A report by the Standards Commissioner in July then confirmed that the tickets for Muscat and his family were indeed purchased by a third party in Jordan.
Similar to Szijjarto, the Muscat family’s lavish lifestyle is at odds with his declared bank balance, raising eyebrows yet again when the former prime minister and his wife posted pictures on social media earlier this month of their family vacationing on a luxury yacht.
Muscat resigned as prime minister in January amidst revelations that implicated officials from his government in the murder of Caruana Galizia. His exact reasons for resigning are still unknown today.