BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The former head of Hungary’s swimming federation on Tuesday denied any role in the 1998 killing of a rival media mogul.
Tamas Gyarfas, who is suspected of ordering the death of Janos Fenyo, said at the start of his trial that he had nothing to admit related to the killing and that violence wasn’t in his nature. Gyarfas rejected a plea deal that would have included 12 years in prison.
Prosecutors believe Gyarfas paid intermediaries to arrange the killing because of personal and business conflicts with Fenyo, who built a large media conglomerate during the first years of Hungary’s return to democracy in 1990 after communist rule.
Gyarfas, a 70-year-old former sports journalist, was also an important media figure, especially in the 1990s, producing and co-hosting the country’s most popular morning news and talk show, “Napkelte” (Sunrise).
At the heart of the case are over 500 minutes of recordings of conversations with Gyarfas secretly made in 2003 and 2004 by Tamas Portik, the man suspected of organizing the shooting.
Portik is already in prison after being convicted for his role in a pair of 1990s underworld killings, but prosecutors have said they will relaunch proceedings against him for his alleged role in the Fenyo case.
Prosecutors said the recordings prove Gyarfas’ guilt, but Gyarfas asked the judge to rule out their use, saying they contained thousands of gaps and many unintelligible parts that made them unsuitable to be used as evidence.
A Slovak man, Josef Rohac, was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 for the slaying. Fenyo was gunned down on Feb. 11, 1998, while sitting in his car at a Budapest traffic light.
Gyarfas led the Hungarian Swimming Federation from 1993 and 2016 while also holding top positions in European and international swimming organizations and the Hungarian Olympic Committee. He is still listed as a member of FINA’s executive body.
The trial is scheduled to continue in February.