Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube was instrumental in a smear campaign against liberal NGOs ahead of Hungary's elections in April, Politico reported Saturday, citing two sources, including a former Black Cube employee.
Soon before the election in which Prime Minister Viktor Orban won another term, a Hungarian magazine published a list of more than 200 people it said were part of a plot funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros to bring down the government. Soros loomed large in Orban's re-election campaign, with his party's posters urging voters to "Stop the Soros candidates!"
According to Politico's report, Hungarian groups and individuals associated with Soros were targeted by agents who secretly recorded them.
Three weeks before the election, the recordings surfaced in reports appearing in the Jerusalem Post and in a Hungarian government-controlled newspaper, lending Orban ammunition in his battle against organizations that oppose his policies.
The recordings that appeared in Hungarian media consisted of excerpts of conversations published just ahead of the April poll. In one instance a Hungarian government spokesman wrote in a blog that information from a former top financial officer for Soros Fund Management suggests the billionaire had a team of 2,000 people specifically tasked with bringing down Orban's government, dismantling a border fence and promoting immigration to Hungary.
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The report quoted two people linked to the firm, who asked to remain anonymous, as saying that they didn't know who paid Black Cube or whether the Hungarian government played any role.
“It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work,” Politico quoted a Black Cube spokesperson as saying. “It is important to note that Black Cube always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”
Politico said that Black Cube has a full-time Hungarian analyst at its Tel Aviv headquarters, citing a former employee.
Following the report, Israeli lawmaker Tamar Zandberg said that Black Cube "is again and again involved in shady cases in the world," noting previous allegations about the firm's activities abroad and calling for the Defense Ministry to crack down on "this Israeli embarrassment."
The report about Black Cube's alleged activities in Hungary came weeks before Orban was set to visit Israel.
In May, allegations arose claiming that Black Cube was hired last year to spy to on former aides in the Obama administration. While initial reports suggested that the spying involved the Iran nuclear deal, a source told Haaretz that correspondence regarding Iranian nuclear issues was related to the business interests of the client who hired the spy firm. According to the source, Black Cube ceased doing work for governments after becoming embroiled in a fight between law enforcement authorities in Romania.
Black Cube came under scrutiny last year when it was revealed that the firm was among several hired by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who sought to discredit women accusing him of sexual assault and harassment – for which he was indicted in May. Black Cube later apologized for that operation.