BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A murder indictment was filed against the former head of Hungary’s swimming federation for allegedly ordering the 1998 killing of a rival media mogul, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Tamas Gyarfas decided to have Janos Fenyo killed over business disputes and personal conflicts, Budapest Chief Prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said in a statement.
According to prosecutors, after his initial attempt to hire a killer fell through despite paying half the fee of 12 million forints (then $60,000), Gyarfas entrusted Tamas Portik — currently in prison for ordering an unrelated murder — with having Fenyo killed. A Slovak man, Josef Rohac, was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 for Fenyo’s murder.
Fenyo was gunned down at the age of 43 on Feb. 11, 1998, while sitting in his car at a Budapest traffic light.
Gyarfas led the Hungarian Swimming Federation from 1993 and 2016 while also holding top positions in European and international swimming organizations and on Hungarian Olympic Committee. He is still listed as a member of FINA’s executive body.
Gyarfas, a 70-year-old former sports journalist, was also an important media figure after Hungary’s return to democracy in 1990, producing and also appearing for years on the country’s most popular morning news and talk show, “Napkelte” (Sunrise).
Gyarfas was questioned and arrested by Hungarian police in April 2018 and named as a suspect in the Fenyo case, but he “firmly denied” being involved in the murder.
He was later released after posting bail of 200 million forints ($680,000), but a Budapest court last week said the sum was returned to him as he was considered to have complied with the terms of his release, for example, by coming back to Hungary after trips abroad.
Gyarfas, for example, was present at the world swimming championships in South Korea which ended Sunday. Hungary, which hosted the event for the first time in 2017, will again host the world championships in 2027 and government officials recently praised Gyarfas’ role in “greatly helping to adequately manage” the country’s bid for the competition.
Fenyo, who worked for years as a press photographer, launched a successful chain of video rental stores shortly after returning in 1987 from a stay in the United States. Later, he began building a media company that grew to include popular magazines and newspapers as well as a cable TV channel. Fenyo’s assassination shocked Hungary and speculation about its motive immediately centered on Fenyo’s legal and allegedly illegal business dealings.