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In Hungary Govt orders fraud probe into Budapest metro project

Hungary has ordered a criminal probe into suspected graft during the construction of a Budapest metro line.

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Passengers ride on an escalator in the Budapest metro system on March 28, 2014 play

Passengers ride on an escalator in the Budapest metro system on March 28, 2014

(AFP/File)

Hungary said Thursday it has ordered a criminal probe into suspected graft during the construction of a Budapest metro line after the EU's anti-fraud office found evidence of possible corruption.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief-of-staff said the government has asked prosecutors to investigate the 1.7-billion-euro ($1.77-billion) project that was partly financed by the European Union.

"The government has a duty to open a probe" on the basis of the OLAF report, Janos Lazar told reporters in Budapest, referring to the EU's anti-corruption watchdog.

Planning and construction of the M4 metro line began before Orban's cabinet came to power in 2010.

It was completed days before his rightwing Fidesz party won a second term in 2014 parliamentary elections.

Lazar alleged that Budapest City Hall officials of the previous Socialist-led government had been involved in fraudulent public procurement and construction contracts.

"The country may have to pay a fine of 76.5 billion forints (250 million euro, $260 million), over what the left-liberal city leadership did to Budapest," he charged.

OLAF said last month it had "uncovered serious irregularities -- fraud and possible corruption" over construction of the M4 line and recommended the EU recover nearly 300 million euros of its funds.

It also recommended the EU's European Investment Bank recover 55 million euros that were among various loans given for the Budapest project.

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