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BUDAPEST—Laszlo Csatary, the Nazi war criminal who tops the Simon Wiesenthal Center's most-wanted list, has been living peacefully in Hungary for the past 17 years, and under his own name.
But this weekend the past caught up with him in the shape of reporters from the British tabloid The Sun knocking on the door of his Budapest apartment and confronting him.
"No, no. Go Away," the paper quoted him as saying in the English picked up while living in Canada, the country he escaped to after World War II but which stripped him of his Canadian citizenship in 1997.
The reporters were acting on information provided to Hungarian authorities by the Nazi-hunting Wiesenthal Center last September obtained in what it calls "Operation: Last Chance."
Hungary's deputy public prosecutor Jeno Varga told AFP on Monday that 10 months on, his office was "studying the information that has been submitted to us."
Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, to give him his full name, was a senior Hungarian police officer in the Slovakian city of Kosice, then under Hungarian rule, where he was in charge of a Jewish ghetto, according to the Wiesenthal Center.
While in the town, known as Kassa in Hungarian and Kaschau in German, he helped organise the deportation to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz of approximately 15,700 Jews from Kosice and the vicinity in the spring of 1944, it says.
He would also beat women with a whip he carried on his belt and force them to dig holes with their bare hands.
In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Csatary to death in absentia but he had made it to Canada where he worked as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto under a false identity until being unmasked and being forced to flee.
Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter, handed over more evidence to Hungarian prosecutors last week highlighting Csatary's "key role" in the deportation of approximately 300 Jews from Kosice to Ukraine.
Almost all were were murdered in the summer of 1941.
"This new evidence strengthens the already very strong case against Csatary and reinforces our insistence that he be held accountable for his crimes," Zuroff said in a statement issued on Sunday.
"The passage of time in no way diminishes his guilt and old age should not afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators."
In Budapest, he made no attempt to hide his identity, with the letter box for his fifth-floor, two-room flat of the well-to-do 12th district of the Hungarian capital bearing his name for all to see. The doorbell went unanswered on Monday.
Neighbours spoken to by AFP meanwhile appeared to be ignorant of Csatary's past, with one who wished to remain anonymous saying: ""I bump into this old man on the stairs sometimes, he has been living here for a while."
"He never came to residents' meetings but he always paid his utility bills," said I. Vasarhelyi, former head of the apartment block's residents association.
Csatary's car, a grey Ford Scorpio, which Zuroff said the old man was still sprightly enough to drive, is parked in the garage.
Zuroff told AFP on Sunday that he has been "very upset and very frustrated" about the lack of action by Hungarian authorities.
"Something has to be done because he's in good health at 97 ... but this could change very quickly."
French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld said meanwhile on Monday he doubted Hungarian authorities would prosecute Csatary as Paris urged Budapest to prosecute him.