Special taxi drivers

Author: Irén KÁRMÁN Original title: Kivételezett taxisok
Publication: vasarnapihirek.hu, Photo: MTI – Csaba KRIZSÁN Date: 12/09/2015

 

Special taxi drivers

 

“Are you are journalist? Well, in that case, can you write why it makes me a human trafficker if I give refugees a lift?  Who am I to ask them for ID? Documents? Is it for me to tell them where to go? But if I am a human trafficker because I take them to the Seni Hotel or to Kőbánya, then why isn’t TaxiPlus a human trafficker? Why can they take refugees free to Győr station?”, snorted a taxi driver angrily, when I asked him what the situation is with drivers in Budapest.

There followed a stream of complaints: there’s chaos because the taxi drivers were told that if they take the refugees not to refugee camps or reception centres, or to the immigration office to arrange their cases, then they could be considered criminal suspects.

TaxiPlus is, in fact, in an exceptional position, as they have signed a contract with the immigration office (BAH). They were caught on film putting refugees into a taxi with the help of policemen in front of the Vámosszabadi reception centre. The destination was Győr station, and apparently the refugees did not have to pay for the trip, because the cost was borne by the state. The situation has changed, however, since the mass exodus to the western border on 4 September. Zoltán Luka, independent town councillor in Vámosszabadi, explains that Taxiplus can now only take refugees for free in the other direction: from Győr station to the camp. If refugees want to leave the camp, they can use the taxi company, but they have to pay in Euro. BAH has not given us any information about its contract with the taxi company, but it seems that the company may have been contracted with BAH since November 2014. This is because last year the town council protested that there were so many refugees that commuters couldn’t get on to the local trains from Győr to Vámosszabadi. So the problem was known already a year ago: far more people were arriving than the nominal capacity of the camp for 216. On the day of this writing, 600 people were waiting to find out their fates, and 3,000 were just hanging around aimlessly near the reception centre. Practically every night 200 to 300 people set off for the western border and, as the locals say: the police do not interfere upon instructions “from above”.

Why is TaxiPlus in such a special situation? According to the Opten Company Registry, TaxiPlus Europe Kft. was established in March 2013 with HUF 5 million capital. The company’s main activity from when it was set up to July 2015 was classified as “other financial intermediary”. Then the company turned a corner and changed its main activity to urban, suburban and terrestrial transport.  The company’s head office is in Zugló (a district in Budapest – trans.), and among other sites it has had one at the ETO Park in Győr since July 2014.

The company seems to be a small family firm; the managing director is a woman who previously appeared with her married name, but now with her maiden name in the company register. This is similar to dozens of other companies under liquidation. Mrs Attila Lajos Oláh, née Brigitta Tóth, must have been born under a lucky star because the company’s worth is a hundred million forints in just two years. According to the company registry, TaxiPlus Europe Kft.’s capital increased to 100 million forints on 20 January 2015.

Several other companies use the TaxiPlus brand, and the husband, Attila Oláh, also plays a role in this. He established TaxiPlus Kft. in 2009, and allegedly in 2013 he handed the company over to Sándor Pólya. According to Pólya, the company became one of Budapest’s largest taxi companies within four years because of its highly effective marketing. In 2013, Taxi Plus Holding Kft. – also owned and managed by members of the Oláh family – incurred several court injunctions: among others, the East Budapest Office of APEH (the Hungarian tax authorities, today renamed NAV – trans.) tried to sue them. It is assumed that they did not have much luck, because the company’s sales were only HUF 400,000 (approximately USD 2000 – trans.) in 2013, and zero in 2014. And then a mysterious owner turned up. Not Sándor Pólya, who had told the press about the contract with BAH and the successful marketing campaign, but someone from Mahé on the sunny Seychelles. So Estate Services International Co., an offshore company, is the owner of one of the companies cashing in on state-funded taxi transport. All Pólya could tell Index was that the Győr-based company has been contracted with the BAH for years, but just for small, local transports of refugees. This does not amount to many trips, and is paid for by the immigration office. But Pólya claims they certainly would not accept money to take refugees to the border.

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