Local ties to right-wing Hungarian website to be probed

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Lawyers representing a Hungarian foundation were granted subpoenas to investigate Healdsburg businessman Béla Varga, an alleged Hungarian neo-Nazi supporter, during a U.S. District Court hearing in San Francisco on June 18.

Attorney Michael Sweet said the subpoenas target both Varga and CloudFlare, the San Francisco–based company Varga allegedly used to anonymously register the anti-Semitic Hungarian news website Kuruc.info. Varga was not present at the hearing.

“We’ll be looking for information about who in Hungary is supporting the Kuruc.info website,” Sweet explained, adding that there were both civil and criminal proceedings currently underway in Hungary.

The goal of the investigation is to gather evidence for the Action and Protection Foundation, a Hungarian nonprofit seeking to pursue the legal case against Varga and others behind Kuruc.info.

Specifically, Sweet said, his investigation will seek to determine information about Varga’s role in setting up the website domain name with S.F.-based CloudFare and who might have helped him with the setup. All evidence will be turned over to the Action and Protection Foundation and the plaintiff in the case, Daniel Bodnar, president of the organization, Sweet said.

Varga’s story first came to light in September 2012 when the Hungarian news site Politics.hu identified Varga and Kuruc.info’s owner.

A site that campaigns against Hungary’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Jewish and Roma communities, and regularly disputes the Holocaust, Kuruc.info has been called “the most active hate group operating in Hungary” by the Budapest-based Athena Institute.

In 2012, Varga said he had registered the domain name Kuruc.info as a favor to friends in Hungary but was not otherwise involved in its operation. However, the Jerusalem Post reported that the website was offering a monetary reward, paid for in part by “our Comrade Béla Varga who lives in America,” for information about anti-Nazi protesters.

Varga reportedly is not currently in the United States. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last year that he “was well known around Healdsburg, having worked for a couple of Napa Valley wineries.” He also owned the Red Paprika in Healdsburg, a store that sold imported foodstuffs and novelty items from Central Europe.

Sweet said the time it will take to gather evidence stemming from the subpoenas will depend on Varga’s and CloudFare’s cooperation.

“It could take days or, if people are resistant, it could take longer,” Sweet said. “There’s a possibility that the information we are seeking may not be available from [Varga] and [CloudFlare] and we may need to seek it from other parties.”

In a brief email to J., CloudFlare representative Daniella Vallurupalli was unclear about whether the company would provide information regarding Varga and Kuruc.info to Sweet.

“We do not comment on our customers without their permission,” Vallurupalli wrote. “Also, CloudFlare complies with all valid orders issued by a U.S. court

Arno Rosenfeld
Arno Rosenfeld

Arno Rosenfeld is a reporter at the Forward. He is a former J. intern and has worked as a correspondent for JTA and The Times of Israel.