“Buying up the past, privatizing the future” is an investigation into the buying of landmark buildings in Transylvania (Romania) and other neighboring countries by two Hungarian, formerly state-owned companies: Manevi Zrt. and Comitatus-Energia Zrt. The Hungarian government donated both companies to the Foundation for Preserving Built Heritage in Central Europe. This foundation is supposed to perform a public function by purchasing and renovating historical Hungarian properties in the Carpathian Basin. However, not much of their activities seem to be public and transparent, so NewsSpectrum Fellow Egyed Ufó Zoltán from the Transylvanian investigative news site Átlátszó Erdély teamed up with Katalin Erdélyi from Hungary’s Átlátszó to looked into the companies’ operations and those of their foreign subsidiaries, which have accumulated a total of 16 properties in Hungary’s neighbouring countries.

Egyed Ufó Zoltán and Katalin Erdélyi published a total of nine investigations (all listed below) into real estate activities outside of Hungary – in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia – puting all the properties on a map and outlining the complex network of companies (the red ones are Manevi and its subsidiaries; the purple ones are Comitatus and its subsidiaries).

Here are some of the project’s key findings, according to the journalists’ investigations:

⇒ Manevi’s official statement saying that they don’t own buildings abroad is false.

⇒ Manevi owns at least 10 buildings in Romania (at the start of the project only four buildings were known).

⇒ Manevi does not buy only heritage buildings as a number of buildings they purchased have no connection to the history of Hungarian community.

Team of journalists visited every know building in Romania owned by Manevi Zrt. and documented the former owners, their history and the possibilities and cost of restoration, in some cases even the contracts and the amounts paid for those buildings.

Átlátszó Erdély (Transparent Transylvania) is the only independent, nonprofit newsroom in Romania doing investigative journalism in the public interest focusing on the 1.2 million Hungarian community living in Transylvania. Founded in December 2014, Átlátszó Erdély works to facilitate public debate through investigative journalism and fact-based stories about issues concerning the community. They are monitoring the way public money is spent, advocating for transparency as well as freedom of expression.

Atlatszo.hu is a watchdog NGO and online newspaper for investigative journalism to promote transparency, accountability, and freedom of information in Hungary. Established in 2011, atlatszo.hu – “atlatszo” means transparent in Hungarian – produces investigative reports, accepts information from whistleblowers

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