Hungary tax chief admits being subject of US travel ban, denies corruption links

Markets Associated Press

The head of Hungary's tax authority acknowledged in a report published Wednesday that she has been banned from entering the United States because of suspected links to corruption.

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Ildiko Vida denied the unspecified allegations, and told the daily newspaper Magyar Nezmet that the ban also affects other officials from NAV, Hungary's tax authority.

Vida said the Hungarian government knew about her ban and that she was not planning to resign. The government has repeatedly denied knowing the identity of six officials that the U.S. Embassy in Budapest said last month had been banned.

At that time, Hungary said it was not planning to investigate and asked the U.S. to provide proof of the allegations.

After Vida failed to show up for a hearing of Parliament's National Security Committe on Wednesday, the committee said it would seek testimony from the U.S. charge d'affaires about the corruption allegations.

The Economy Ministry said minister Mihaly Varga was informed of Vida's ban only immediately ahead of her newspaper interview.

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The ministry said it "awaits the American information it can use to launch an investigation into the matter."

It also reiterated that it was continuing its investigation of tax irregularities brought to its attention in 2011 by Bunge, an American food company best known in Hungary for its brand of cooking oil.

On Oct. 22, Varga announced that NAV is investigating allegations that companies were selling products competing with Bunge's at unrealistically low prices because they were resorting to tax evasion while also profiting from illicit tax refunds.

Varga said then that authorities had uncovered a network of tax cheats bringing in cooking oil, sugar and coffee from Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic. Eight suspects had been detained and 800 million forints ($3.2 million, 2.6 million euros) confiscated, Varga said.