Hungary: Crime situation, including organized crime; police and state response including effectiveness [HUN104103.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. General Situation and Statistics

In a June 2010 article, MTI (Magyar Tavirati Iroda ), a Hungarian news agency based in Budapest, provides information from a report by the chief prosecutor, which states that in 2009 the general crime rate had dropped from 2008 (1 June 2010a). In May 2010, Reuters noted that the northeast of Hungary struggles with "high" rates of crime (Reuters 11 May 2010). In their Hungary 2012 Crime and Safety Report, the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) notes that there was an increase in crime between 2010 and 2011, including violent crimes against persons, such as aggravated assault (US 19 Feb. 2012).

The Hungarian Central Statistical Office provides statistics from the Chief Prosecutor's Department of the Ministry of the Interior regarding registered publicly indicated crimes, which totalled to: 394,034 in 2009; 447,186 in 2010; and 451,371 in 2011 (Hungary 17 May 2012). The following table provides data on specific registered publicly indicated crimes:

Registered publicly indicated crimes 2009 2010 2011
Against the person 23,914 27,897 27,204
Against property 253,366 273,613 256,175
Economic fraud 16,752 21,119 32,490
Against law and order 68,986 93,612 107,676

(Hungary 17 May 2012)

In 29 June 2012 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) provided data on crime published by the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, which indicated that in 2009, there were 12,430 registered incidents of intentional bodily harm.

1.1 Homicide

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) notes in their 2011 Global Study on Homicide that, according to criminal justice sources, the homicide rate in Hungary, calculated based on UN population estimates (UN 2011, 91), was 1.4 in 2009, compared to Canada's rate of 1.8 that same year; public health sources list a different rate for Hungary in 2009 at 1.2 (UN 2011, 107, 110). The report also added that 5 percent of homicides were committed with the use of firearms in 2009, a decrease from 8.2 percent the previous year; in Canada the same rate was at 32 percent in 2009 (UN 2011, 115, 116). In Budapest the homicide rate was 2.1 in 2009; in Toronto it was 1.5 that same year (UN 2011, 118, 119).

The HHC representative reported that according to official statistics, in 2009 there were 138 homicides, in 2010 the number was 133, and in 2011 there were 142 (HHC 29 June 2012).

1.2 Missing Children

According to the Department Head of Crime Evaluation and Analysis at the National Police Headquarters, in 2010, 15,000 people were reported missing, including 11,000 minors (MTI 25 May 2011). In May 2011, the number of people still missing was 1,900, including 842 minors (MTI 25 May 2011). Police efforts regarding this issue have included closer cooperation with local residents, facilitating electronic publication of the missings' personal data, and joining the EU's child abduction alert system (MTI 25 May 2011).

1.3 Property Crime

According to the Minsiter of the Interior, in 2010, Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen county in northeastern Hungary had the highest rate of property crime in the country (MTI 1 June 2010b). In April 2012, the Minister of the Interior noted that property crimes in some places had fallen by up to 40 percent, which is related to the fact that courts are issuing stricter punishments for smaller offences, instead of just fines (MTI 11 Apr. 2012).

2. Organized Crime

In April 2009, MTI reports that the director of the National Security Office (NBH) informed the news agency that in 2008 organized crime in Hungary increased in "power and influence" and speculated that in 2009, the "conflict and violence" between rival groups would "likely increase" (MTI 20 Apr. 2009). An associate and analyst at the Institute of Defence and Analysis in Athens, who also leads the southeast European office of the World Security Network Foundation ( n.d.a), discusses organized crime in Hungary in a January 2012 article (Michaletos 16 Jan.2012), published through, a commercial and private publication internet source ( n.d.b). The Institute of Defence analyst states that according to the Hungarian Security Council, since 2007, the number of criminal organizations in Hungary has "increased considerably" (Michaletos 16 Jan.2012). He also states that criminal networks in Hungary, and specifically in Budapest, consist of former security force members and black marketers (ibid.).

According to an MTI article, organised crime groups are more active in Hungary since the country became part of the European Union's Schengen zone, which allows free movement across a number of European countries (MTI 19 Apr. 2009). The Institute of Defence analyst notes that because of its location, Hungary is used for the trafficking of "illicit cargo" such as Ukranian tobacco and women being trafficked to Austria (Michaletos 16 Jan.2011). MTI reports that a case against a 20 member Hungarian-Ukrainian tobacco smuggling ring has been turned to the chief prosecutor of Szabolc-Szatmar-Bereg county, located in northeastern Hungary (MTI 1 June 2011). The Ukrainian head of the ring reportedly had the "entire section of the Hungarian-Ukrainian border under control" (ibid.).

US Crime and Safety Report notes that in Hungary organized crime groups are in control of the majority of crimes such as prostitution, auto-theft, gambling, and drug trafficking (US 19 Feb. 2012).

According to the same report, Hungary is a "transit country for illegal drugs coming from Turkey and Asia to various destinations in Europe" (ibid.). The Institute of Defence analyst similarly states that 90 percent of drugs in Hungary are distributed by foreigners, and Budapest usually has a large supply of "hard drugs" (Michaletos 16 Jan.2011).

In his article, the Institute of Defence analyst notes that in January 2011, Budapest had the "global epicentres" of illegal pornography, money laundering and contraband tobacco, and was also the "negotiation center" for international crime group leaders involved in the trafficking of arms, women and drugs (ibid.). In addition, Budapest is said to have had an estimated 1,000 illegally employed "'international escorts'" at the time (ibid.).

The Institute of Defence analyst also mentions that organized crime controls construction and businesses involved in public procurement, in addition to new organized crime groups from China and Latin America starting to establish presence in Budapest (ibid.).

Further information on organized crime could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Police Efforts

US Country Reports 2011 notes that if a person is suspected of, or caught, committing a crime, has an arrest warrant, or is unable to provide identification, he or she can be placed under "'short-term arrest,'" which may last from 8 to 12 hours, depending on the circumstances (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). Anyone considered a security threat can be detained for 24 hours, and for 72 hours if there is a "well-founded suspicion of an offense punishable with imprisonment or if the subsequent pre-trial detention of the defendant seems likely" (ibid.). The report also indicates that according to NGOs, "police routinely proceeded with interrogation immediately after notifying suspects of their right to counsel" (ibid.).

US Country Reports 2011 also notes that in 2010 the Office of the Prosecutor General received 88 official complaints of arbitrary detention, 46 of which were rejected, in 37 of them no charges were pressed, 4 cases resulted in the initiation of indictments, and 1 case resulted in reprimand (ibid.).

The minister of the Interior mentioned the initiation of a plan to increase police presence in all regions of Hungary, commencing by ensuring the presence of police officers in every village in northeastern Hungary (MTI 1 June 2010b). The county of Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen received 600 officers (ibid.). The Minister of the Interior informed the media in April 2012 that police officers had been given "extra powers" when working against loan-sharks operating in poor, mainly Roma, neighbourhoods, which has resulted in the initiation of approximately 1,000 cases against usurers (ibid. 11 Apr. 2012).

US Crime and Safety Report notes that the US law enforcement task force is working with the organized crime division of the Hungarian National Police against organized crime (US 19 Feb. 2012). Similarly, according to the Institute of Defence analyst, Hungarian officials who have been trained in the US are investigating money laundering among executives working in "respectable businesses" (Michaletos 16 Jan.2011).

The Hungarian Central Statistical Office provides the following data regarding the number of criminal offenders and how many of them were sentenced: in 2009, out of 111,736 offenders, 86,901 were sentenced; in 2010, out of 122,529 offenders, 89,343 were sentenced (Hungary 29 June 2011).

4. Witness Protection

In a Council of Europe questionnaire, the Hungarian government provided the following information regarding witness protection:

  • The Witness Protection Service began its operation on 1 April 2002 (Council of Europe 2006, para.24).
  • Protection can be requested by the witness, their lawyer, or ex officio (ibid., para.4).
  • Anonymity or entrance into the Protection Program is only allowed in cases of organized crime or "extremely serious criminal offences" (ibid., para.4).
  • Numbers regarding how many people are in the program are kept confidential (ibid., para 24).

The following information on witness protection is provided in a report on whistleblowing in Hungary written by a member of the State Audit Office for a project on whistleblowing in Central and Eastern European countries (Whistleblowing CEE), initiated by K-Monitor, a NGO focusing on Hungarian and international corruption issues, and by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, a "law reform and legal defence public interest NGO" in Budapest (Whisteblowing CEE n.d.). According to the report,

Witness protection is regulated by the Witness Protection Act and by the Criminal Procedure Act. Protection is provided to individuals during and after criminal procedures in cases of serious crimes, such as those related to organised crime, international crime or concerning terrorism, blackmailing, money laundering, drugs or arms trade, prostitution, paedophilia or crimes against life or limb. There is a wide range of measures which can be applied so as to protect the life, limb and personal freedom of co-operating persons, such as personal protection, change of residence, ban of providing personal data from registers, change of name, change of identity and participation in international cooperation. … the law focuses mainly on most serious crimes which rarely coincide with less severe wrongdoings ... (Burai [2010])

Further information on the witness protection program or its effectiveness could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Burai, Petra. [2010]. State Audit Office. "Whistleblowing in Hungary." <> [Accessed 7 June 2012]

Council of Europe. 2006. Replies to the Questionnaire on Protection of Witnesses and Pentiti in Relation to Acts of Terrorism. < Source/pcpw_questionnaireReplies/PC-PW%202006%20reply%20-%20Hungary.pdf> [Accessed 7 June 2012]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). 29 June 2012. Correspondence from a representative sent to the Research Directorate.

Hungary. 17 May 2012. Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Gabor Papp. "2.8.2. Registered Publicly Indicated Crimes and Perpetrators (1990-2011)." Tables (STADAT) - Time Series of Annual Data - Justice. < xstadat_annual/i_zjb002.html> [Accessed 7 June 2012]

_____. 29 June 2011. Hungarian Central Statistical Office. "2.7. Justice (1965-2010)." Tables (STADAT) - Long Time Series. < xstadat/xstadat_long/h_zjj001.html> [Accessed 7 June 2012]

MTI (Magyar Tavirati Iroda). 11 April 2012. "EXCERPT - Hungary Govt Acts Against Vigilantes, Interior Minister Tells FAZ." (Factiva)

_____. 26 July 2011. "One News Programme Exceeds Crime Coverage Limit in Jan-May, Media Council Reports." (Factiva)

_____. 1 June 2011. "Hungarian-Ukrainian Ring's Case at Prosecution in NE Hungary." (Factiva)

_____. 25 May 2011. "Children Missing in Hungary Each Year Would Fill Small Town - Govt Spoke." (Factiva)

_____. 1 June 2010a. "Economic Crimes on the Rise in Hungary, Says Official." (Factiva)

_____. 1 June 2010b. "UPDATE - Hungary's Interior Minister Vows to Tackle Crime, Tighten Rules for Benefits (Adds Details)." (Factiva)

_____. 20 April 2009. "National Security Office Says Influence of Organized Crime increased in Hungary Last Year." (Factiva)

_____. 19 April 2009. "Organised Crime Rings More Active in Hungary, Says Chief Official." (Factiva)

Michaletos, Ioannis. 16 January 2011. "Organized Crime in Central Europe." ( <> [Accessed 7 June 2012]

Reuters. 11 May 2010. Marton Dunai. "Hungary's New Govt to Clamp Down on Crime - Orban." (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). 2011. Office on Drugs and Crime. Global Study on Homicide 2011. < documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/Homicide/ Globa_study_on_homicide_2011_web.pdf> [Accessed 6 June 2012]

United States. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. < humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=186359> [Accessed 18 June 2012]

_____. 19 February 2012. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Hungary 2012 Crime and Safety Report. <> [Accessed 6 June 2012]

Whistleblowing Central and Eastern Europe (Whistleblowing CEE). N.d. "About Us." <> [Accessed 14 June 2012] N.d.a. "Ioannis Michaletos." < index.cfm/hurl/page=freelancerDetails/id=76> [Accessed 18 June 2012]

_____. N.d.b. "About WordPress." <> [Accessed 27 June 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources:The following sources could not provide information for this Response: a member of the Constitutional Court of Hungary, Victim Support Department of the Justice Service of Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, and a professor of law at the Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE).

The Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa did not reply within the time constraints of this Response.

The following sources could not be reached within the time constraints of this Response: an international lawyer at ELTE, National Institute of Criminology, and the National Police Headquarters.

Internet sites, including:Center for Strategic and International Studies;; The Economist; European Commission; Factiva; Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Hungary – Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, National Institute of Criminology, National Police; Interpol; Jamestown Foundation; Jane's Intelligence Review; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; United Nations – Human Rights Council, Refworld.