BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The former head of Hungary’s swimming federation on Wednesday firmly denied allegations that he ordered the 1998 slaying of a business rival, his lawyer said.
Tamas Gyarfas has been in police custody since late Tuesday on suspicion of ordering the February 1998 killing of media mogul Janos Fenyo, who was fatally shot in his car in downtown Budapest.
Defense lawyer Janos Banati said Wednesday that Gyarfas was questioned by police for several hours and told them about his conflict with Fenyo as well as their later reconciliation.
“Tamas Gyarfas filed a complaint against the imputation and most firmly denied the act he was charged with,” Banati said in a statement.
Banati said Gyarfas gave “comprehensive and logical answers” to authorities’ questions.
Now authorities will decide whether Gyarfas will be released, detained further or face possible charges.
Gyarfas and Fenyo were key players in the Hungarian media industry from around the time of Hungary’s return to democracy in 1990.
Fenyo, who worked for years as a press photographer, launched a successful chain of video rental stores shortly after returning in 1987 from the United States. Later, he began building a media company that grew to include popular magazines and newspapers as well as a cable TV channel.
In the late afternoon of Feb. 11, 1998, Fenyo was shot numerous times with a Croatian-made submachine gun, which later was recovered by police along with the clothes worn by the killer. The assassination shocked the country and speculation about its motive immediately centered both on Fenyo’s legal and allegedly illegal business dealings.
A Slovak man, Jozef Rohac, was sentenced to life in prison last year for Fenyo’s killing but the police are still looking for who hired the gunman.
Police reopened their investigation into the Fenyo killing in October. Last week police questioned Tamas Portik, currently serving a 13-year term for ordering an underworld killing, about his suspected involvement in Fenyo’s slaying.
Gyarfas led the Hungarian Swimming Federation in 1993-2016 while also holding top positions in European and international swimming organizations and on Hungary’s Olympic committee. He is still listed as a member of FINA’s executive body.
Gyarfas resigned as head of the swimming federation in November 2016, just months before Hungary hosted the 2017 world championships, the largest sporting event ever held in the country and of which Gyarfas has been a key organizer.
The push for his ouster was led by three-time Olympic swimming champion Katinka Hosszu, who called him a “most harmful factor” for Hungarian swimming. She says swimmers needed better training facilities and funding to compete.