Viktor Orban accused of putting son through Sandhurst at Hungarian taxpayer's expense

Matthew Day
·3 min read
Viktor Orban, who has faced criticism by his EU allies for his illiberal policies, faces parliamentary elections next year.  - AFP
Viktor Orban, who has faced criticism by his EU allies for his illiberal policies, faces parliamentary elections next year. - AFP

Opposition leaders have accused Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban of putting his son through training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst at the expense of the taxpayer.

Gaspar Orban, the son of Hungary's authoritarian leader, graduated in December after attending the nine-month course, which local media said cost about £93,000.

Viktor Orban has faced frequent accusations of cronyism and of using the levers of state power to benefit and reward those closest to him since becoming prime minister for a second time in 2010.

The opposition Democratic Coalition demanded that Viktor and Gaspar Orban, along with Tibor Benko, the Hungarian defence minister, stand before the parliament’s defence committee to answer questions over the affair.

The party wanted to know why Gaspar could attend Sandhurst at the expense of the “Hungarian taxpayer” and a price that was “unaffordable to Hungarians”, the Hungary Today website reported.

The Hungarian government told the Daily Telegraph that Gaspar Orban had received no preferential treatment.

“The Ministry of Defence rejects the accusations of Left-wing MPs, and wishes to stress that naturally they and their children have the same opportunity as anyone else to apply for membership of the Hungarian Defence Forces, within which they would also be able to train abroad if they meet the relevant requirements,” the government said.

“Everyone in the Hungarian Defence Forces has the opportunity to apply for various courses and training programmes, both at home and abroad,” the government told The Telegraph.

“As part of this, in recent years 163 Hungarian military personnel have participated in various training courses in many countries around the world.”

Hungarian news website Telex published a photo of the younger Mr Orban in a group photograph of Sandhurst’s foreign students, and found that his name had appeared on a list of graduates published on January 1.

Only three Hungarian students, including Gaspar Orban, benefitted from the training in the elite academy.

“The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst offers a number of courses to international students. Last year, three candidates funded by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence graduated from the Academy, alongside individuals from 43 other countries,” An Army spokesperson said.

A defence cooperation agreement with Hungary includes courses at Sandhurst. There were three self-funded places on commissioning courses in the last 18 months, which were nominated by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence.

Gasper Orban, 28, had previously shown little sign that he was interested in a military career before joining the army last year.

When he was younger Orban dabbled at becoming a professional football player, allegedly to help please his soccer-loving father.

Having failed to make the cut in the professional game, he later founded a Christian community in Hungary having, allegedly, found Christ while teaching football to children in Uganda.

Andras Fekete-Gyor, a politician from the liberal opposition party Momentum, said on Facebook that the prime minister should have paid for his son to attend Sandhurst “out of his own” pocket but could not resist the state footing the bill.

Members of the ruling Fidesz party have robustly defended Mr Orban. Szilárd Németh, the deputy defence minister, said Mr Fekete-Gyor should join the army.

“We will do our best to ensure that Fekete-Gyor becomes a self-sacrificing, absolutely duty-conscious, straightforward, and gallant officer of the Hungarian Homeland, a man who is accustomed to a modest lifestyle and passionate about his future vocation,” he said.

Fidesz’s parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis said that the prime minister’s family had been attacked “for the umpteenth time”.

Sandhurst counts Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg among its former cadets.