Hungarian Bank Owner Denies Special Treatment by Cousin Matolcsy

  • NHB bank acted lawfully, Magyar Idok cites Tamas Szemerey
  • Says other lenders also kept central bank foundation deposits

Tamas Szemerey, the owner of NHB Novekedesi Hitel Bank Zrt., rejected claims that his lender had received preferential treatment by being mandated to manage deposits of the National Bank of Hungary’s foundations, launched with a $1 billion endowment by his cousin, Governor Gyorgy Matolcsy.

NHB is the smallest of at least 5 lenders handling the foundations’ funds, therefore there’s nothing amiss with the dealings, Szemerey told the Magyar Idok newspaper in an interview published Saturday. The costs of handling the money and deposit fees taken by the lender are broadly balanced, he said.

Links to Matolcsy’s relatives has been at the center of criticism over the foundations and have prompted opposition parties to call for the resignation of the central bank chief, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The National Bank of Hungary, which has denied any wrongdoing, started the six foundations to promote financial literacy using unprecedented gains of about $1.8 billion, mostly from the revaluation of foreign-currency reserves as the forint weakened.

“Choosing a bank requires a form of trust,” Szemerey, who also is the chairman of NHB, was cited as saying in his first public comments on the matter. Relatives “don’t exclusively appear in the vicinity of the National Bank of Hungary, but also, over the course of the last 20 years, in several fields of the economy and financial life, business and science, both abroad and in Hungary,” he said.

NHB, Hungary’s 34th largest lender with about $159 million in assets at the end of 2014, received at least $90 million in deposits from the six central bank endowments in 2014, according to documents published by the foundations. The commercial lender has also been active in a central bank initiative to boost lending to small- and middle-sized firms.

Szemerey said less than five percent of the 21 billion forint ($76 million) in lending channeled under the monetary authority’s Funding for Growth program went to his or Matolcsy’s relatives. “We placed every loan in full compliance with regulation, and with special attention to rules on conflicts of interest,” he said.

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