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Top court increases espionage sentence for former Jobbik MEP to 5 years

The Kuria, Hungary's supreme court, has increased a prison sentence handed to Bela Kovacs, a former politician of the opposition Jobbik party, for espionage to 5 years, news portal said on Tuesday.

Kuria ruled that the former Jobbik MEP was guilty of espionage against European Union institutions, budgetary fraud and the forging of personal documents. It increased a previous suspended sentence to five years in prison and also banned him for ten years from participating in public affairs. The earliest time that he can be allowed conditional release is after completing two-thirds of his sentence.

The court laid out the justification of the ruling behind closed doors because it involved classified data.

Kovacs currently lives in Moscow and was not present at the announcement.

The Constitutional Protection Office, Hungary’s internal security intelligence agency, filed a report against Kovacs in April 2014 after it was revealed by the civil national security services that he had regularly met Russian diplomats and paid monthly visits to Moscow.

The European Parliament lifted his immunity in October 2015.

Charges were raised in early December of that year on suspicion that he had spied against EU institutions for Russia between 2012 and 2014.

In 2017, the EP lifted his immunity in connection with another case. Hungary’s chief prosecutor Peter Polt requested the procedure, citing information from the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF indicating that between 2012 and 2013, Kovacs hired four interns, who never turned up in Brussels or carried out any work. The EP then merged the two investigations.

In the same year, he was charged by the Hungarian prosecutor with budgetary fraud, as well as betrayal of public trust.

In September 2020, he was acquitted of espionage and given a sentence of 18 months, suspended for three years, on fraud charges. In June 2021, his sentence was increased to two years, suspended for five years.

The MEP has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

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